Threads, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, gave 400-plus attendees at the NOW young adult ministry conference 15 dynamic speakers, each with 20 minutes to drive home their points and their passion.
"Each speaker had 20 minutes -- no more -- to engage the audience," said Jason Hayes, LifeWay's young adult ministry specialist who doubled up as conference host and one of the speakers. He and LifeWay's Sarah Edwards coordinated the April 15-16 event.
NOW was a passion-packed visual bash, giving the attendees everything from the personal testimony of a former drug dealer turned pastor to a lawyer who became CEO of an orphan-saving nonprofit to an author of books about the tough sayings of Jesus that make Christians go "Huh?"
The young adults in attendance defied the LifeWay Research statistic that says 70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22.
They not only go to church, but also go to Bible studies, Christian campus groups and out into their communities. These are the 20-somethings who celebrate their love relationship with Christ and their willingness to go anywhere and do anything He asks of them.
Unlike conferences where speakers may have up to an hour or more to tell their stories or make their points, the speakers/communicators at NOW had to get to the point, make the point and quit.
"This format is something that we thought would be embraced by young adults," Hayes said. "They don't want a lot of fluff. They want an in-your-face, direct, singular challenge. We designed NOW to do just that."
Speakers came from across the country and brought Christ-centered messages that went straight for the heart.
-- Jon Acuff, author of "Quitter," "Gazelles, Baby Steps And 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt" and the blog "Stuff Christians Like." Acuff is a member of the Dave Ramsey team in Franklin, Tenn.
-- Ben Arment, founder of STORY in Chicago, the Whiteboard Sessions and Dream Year, a 12-month process to help people achieve their God-given dreams; former innovation director for Catalyst and author of "Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts."
-- Jeremy Cowart, celebrity photographer from Nashville, Tenn., and founder of Help-Portrait, a worldwide movement of photographers using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those less fortunate.
-- John Croyle, founder of Big Oak Ranch for children in Springville, Ala., and former University of Alabama defensive end.
-- Mike Glenn, senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., speaker and author of "In Real Time: Young Adult Ministry As It Happens," the story of the church's Tuesday night Kairos ministry to young adults.
-- Robby Gallaty, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., who was saved from a drug and alcohol addiction eight years ago.
-- Jen Hatmaker, speaker at retreats, conferences and seminars for women from all denominations and backgrounds and author of eight books and Bible studies, including "Interrupted" and "A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study" series.
-- Jason Hayes, speaker, author, strategist and ministry specialist for Threads, LifeWay's young adult initiative; author of "Blemished," "Follow Me" and co-author of "Lost and Found."
-- Tami Heim, brand development partner in The A Group, a tech, marketing, media and consulting firm in Brentwood; former executive vice president and chief publishing officer at Thomas Nelson Publishers and former president of Borders, Inc.
-- Michael Kelley, Bible study editor at LifeWay Christian Resources and author of "The Tough Sayings of Jesus," "The Tough Sayings of Jesus II" and "Holy Vocabulary."
-- Aaron Keyes, worship pastor at Grace Fellowship Church outside Atlanta for the past seven years.
-- Joe Knittig, CEO of the Global Orphan Project, a ministry of 45 Gospel-centered children's villages in 14 countries.
-- Scott McDaniel, vice president of creative services for Sony Music in Nashville who leads a creative team overseeing artist imaging and operations related to print and video creation.
-- Matt Mooney, founder of 99 Balloons, a nonprofit organization that works with special needs children, families and orphans on a local and international scale.
-- Ed Stetzer, LifeWay's vice president of research and ministry development and LifeWay's missiologist in residence. He is also contributing editor for Christianity Today and columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly.
-- Pete Wilson, founding pastor of Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, an eight-year-old church that reaches more than 4,000 people each weekend through its four campuses located around the metro Nashville area.
In addition to the speakers, young missionaries from the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board were at the event to spotlight the opportunities available for young adults to minister around the world. Several other ministries also were present as exhibitors.
The next Threads-sponsored event will be Collegiate Week Aug. 7-12 at the LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center near Santa Fe, N.M. Nearly 2,000 college students are expected. Visit ThreadsMedia.com for more information.
Polly House is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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