2019 ETCH Family Ministry Conference Aims to Help Children’s and Student Ministries Thrive

LifeWay President Ben Mandrell speaks to children and student ministry leaders about the importance of healthy relationships with other church staff and volunteers and how healthy relationships help ministries thrive. Photo by Amanda Mae Steele

Between wrangling toddlers, filling volunteer spots and helping teens navigate adolescence, the responsibilities that lace kids and student ministry can make for a tough gig.

But God doesn’t intend for these crucial ministries to merely survive, but to thrive, said leaders at the 2019 ETCH Family Ministry Conference held October 7-9 at the Music City Center.

“Thrive” was the theme of this year’s ETCH (Equipping the Church and Home) Conference, which examined how leaders of individual ministries can come together toward a common goal to help families and the entire church flourish. This year’s ETCH Conference — hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources — drew about 1,300 ministry leaders of kids and students and offered more than 50 speakers and breakout leaders.

Ben Mandrell

“The highest kingdom potential lies in kids and student ministries,” said Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of LifeWay. Drawing from his experience as a church planter in Denver, Mandrell said the most effective way he found to reach families for Christ was often to reach one kid who lives inside the home.

“That kid became a carrier of the Gospel behind four walls we could not enter,” Mandrell said.

But despite the critical impact of kids and student ministries, heated emotions within the church can easily distract leaders, he said.

Mandrell spoke on how emotions work, how to process anger in a godly way, and how to use heated moments to strengthen, rather than sabotage, one’s work. The secret — he shared as he expounded on the story of David, Nabal and Abigail and other Scriptures — is found in exercising gentleness and listening well.

“In heated conversations, are you determined to listen or determined to win?” Mandrell asked ETCH attendees. “If you want to have influence in ministry, you must get to the level of maturity that heated people can come to you, and you avoid becoming heated in the process.

“Don’t let anger or a hardened heart affect your ability to relate to others in ministry.”

Ben Trueblood

Ben Trueblood, LifeWay’s director of student ministry, shared the results of a study by LifeWay Research on the role of church involvement in students’ transition from high school to college.

“Sixty-six percent of those who were active in church during high school walk away from the church in their college years,” reported Trueblood. “As we wave goodbye to them as they head off to college, they are also waving goodbye to us.”

Trueblood said this statistic should trigger a response from churches to raise up a generation of believers who abide in Christ throughout life transitions.

“Staying connected to Christ in the college years is something we can measure and ask if what we’re doing causes ‘remaining’ to happen,” he said.

Trueblood also shared statistics that revealed one of the top reasons why college students leave the church is they don’t feel connected to people there. This is a wakeup call, he said, not to silo students off into their own isolated ministry, but to intentionally connect them to other generations within the church.

Trueblood said involving older generations in kids and student ministries allows young people to see what faithfulness looks like over a lifetime and enables parents to be discipled by seasoned Christians in a way that equips them, in turn to become the primary disciplers of their own children.

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Source: Baptist Press