After canceling last year’s Disciple Now youth conference, Loudon County Baptist Association and First Baptist Church in Lenoir City excitedly await the arrival of DNOW 2021 with some new twists.
Disciple Now will be hosted April 30-May 2 in the FBC sanctuary. The conference is typically hosted in the FBC gym, but with concerns about COVID-19 and social distancing, the sanctuary was decidedly a better venue, Teresa Wood, LCBA ministry assistant, said.
Other precautions will include diligent cleaning and masks, she said.
DNOW was scheduled last year for the end of March. Wood was concerned this year’s event would also have to be canceled.
This year’s theme is “Fear is a Liar,” Wood said. The conference is $45 per student, which buys meals and a T-shirt for the weekend.
“The theme is perfect because given the year that we’ve had,” she said. “We’ve had so many students that live in fear of just failure. Fear of what the enemy tells them — that they’re no good, that they can’t do it, so many things that they have coming at them. This theme is just showing that fear is a liar, and we don’t have to fear because God is bigger than anything that’s going to come against us.”
Students in grades 6-12 stay at host homes of church members who have offered to house small groups for two nights. At the host homes, students are involved in Bible study and peer discussion.
To receive a T-shirt, participants must register March 31. However, registration will remain open until the day before the event by contacting Wood at 865-986-2292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wood said LCBA hopes to reach more youth in the county.
“It is open to all churches in Loudon and Lenoir City,” Wood said. “In the past, we’ve just had our churches that were part of our association, so we have 40 churches in the association. This year we’ve decided we want to open it up to all students in Loudon County. We want to give them an opportunity that if their churches aren’t doing something like that then we want to give them an opportunity to come to worship and to come and hear the word of God in a student atmosphere.”
Wood is pushing for students to invite friends who may not belong to a church.
“One of the big pushes here is that we have our kids that are in church that perhaps maybe grew up in church, that maybe come to this, and they look forward to this every year like, ‘When is DNOW coming?’” she said. “Our biggest push is bring your friends. Bring your friends that are unchurched because this is an opportunity for them to come, have fun, fellowship, get to hear an awesome band, get to eat food and most importantly get to hear the word of God. But in a way that is relevant to a student about issues that students are dealing with.”
Wood hopes DNOW will spark a “revival” among students who have lost their way during the pandemic.
The Rev. Mark Shaddix, FBC student minister, said having fun is always a goal at DNOW. He also believes the conference is the “single most important” event hosted by FBC.
“The purpose of the church is for students to be discipled and to grow in their relationship with Jesus, and that’s the whole purpose of the event,” Shaddix said. “… They have small group leaders that they’re building relationships with throughout the weekend who are staying with them at their host homes and spending the weekend with them … and really pour into their lives and let them know that they are loved and cared for and that there are people in the world who care, genuinely care about them and want them to succeed and want them to grow into mature believers in Jesus and just mature and responsible young adults one day.”
Youth conferences like DNOW are “critical,” the Rev. John Hunn, FBC senior pastor, said.
“They’re faced with these challenges earlier in their lives than (later generations),” Hunn said. “… They need to know that they’re not alone. I think one of the key things in life is to know that you are walking with others and one of the things that I like to write whenever I’m doing an article on Facebook or whatever is about a young army. I really do believe God is raising up a young army of young people that can think for themselves and have a different set of values.
“… We’re going to encourage our young people to be heard, to be poised, to be prepared and to be kind,” he added. “Be kind when you are faced with differing opinions. Be respectful and kind and learn how to sit down at the table and dialogue like people used to do.”