PLC session spotlights the emerging church 

Release Date: March 10, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – With a thematic focus of “Doing more than we can dream,” the 88th Annual Pastors’ and Laymen’s Conference at Wayland Baptist University featured several breakout sessions, including one that looked at the emerging church and how pastors and congregations can connect with younger people in their communities.

Dusty Thompson, lead pastor at Redeemer Church in Lubbock, and Jeff Kennon, director of the Baptist Student Ministries at Texas Tech University, spoke to those in attendance about connecting with today’s youth and young adults. In essence, the duo said today’s church needs to be “relational and missional.”

“The number one thing is to be where they are and listen,” Kennon said. “With Facebook, cell phones and text messaging, they are plugged into something all the time. But even though that is the case, they are relationally challenged.”

Kennon explained that the younger generation is lonely and stressed out, and they don’t have a network of people who truly care for them. They consistently look for “the catch,” and want to know if a church or Christian organization is just going to love them without a self-serving agenda. He said the key is to start small and build one-on-one relationships.

Thompson said his church uses this approach within its small groups. While the church professes to be an “OK place to not be OK,” it welcomes everyone and uses small groups to nurture people. Thompson said it is important to be “Gospel-centered” and to understand that the gospel is equally applicable to Christians as well as non-Christians.

“The Bible is a story of redemption,” Thompson said. “We want to put the Gospel front and center. We want to reach a young crowd that may be burned out and re-engage them with the gospel.”

The pair also stated that the key to building strong relationships is to be yourself.

“Play to your strengths,” Thompson explained. He said many churches try to reach younger audiences by having “contemporary services,” but every time a church wants to start a contemporary service it is not contemporary at all. They are usually 10 years behind the times.

“There is no magic formula,” Kennon said. “I don’t trust in any gimmick. The Spirit of God works. God has placed you where you are to care for the people around you.”