Equip Conference at York University continues to grow

By Eliza Rohda

YORK — York University hosted its second annual Equip Conference this week and the conference’s success once again exceeded expectations.

Attendance nearly doubled from the inaugural conference, with about 130 ministers, elders and other leaders representing 52 churches from 13 states and Canada.

Dr. Garrett Best, chairman of the Department of Bible and Ministry, described the conference as an “oasis,” saying for churches outside of the Bible Belt, “there are not a lot of offerings like this, so this becomes a lifeline.”

Lectures and worship opportunities were spread over two days, beginning with a message from Josh Ross, lead minister of Sycamore View Church of Christ in Memphis, Tenn. Ross spoke to Equip attendees and the student body during The Well, the university’s daily chapel gathering, about equipping the church for service to the world. When reflecting on his talk, Ross recognized the respect and attention from the intergenerational crowd made for an encouraging experience.

Directly afterwards, a panel including Dr. Carlus Gupton, Scott Lambert, Kendall Fike and Justus Coppinger discussed the conference’s theme — Hope for Churches. These church leaders, some with decades of experience and some who are just getting started, talked through the unique challenges and hopes of current churches. They also gave advice on priorities for congregations and recommended useful resources.

Highlights of the first day included the dedication of the Clayton Apologetics Reading Room, a valuable collection of resources donated by John Clayton, the namesake of the Clayton Museum of Ancient History. Clayton, who was once a devout atheist, has dedicated his life to proving God’s existence and inspiring faith in countless individuals. During the dedication, he spoke about his work and the need to communicate with the coming generations.

“We can stop the erosion of our young people,” he said, “if we can stop and answer their questions.”

In a busy day for the Clayton Museum, Dr. Tim McNeese and Dr. Terry Seufferlein debuted a new exhibit titled “The Ancient Greeks: Founders of the Classical World.”

Wrapping up the evening, Campus Minister Sean Algaier performed with a music ensemble composed of a few York University students titled, “A Night of Hope: Scripture Through Song.”

A common topic throughout breakout sessions was intergenerational communication and how the church can minister to Gen Z. The most popular session, with standing room only, was led by two of York University’s own students. Bible majors Reagan Branum and Simeon Tremaine presented their talk “How Your Church Can Understand and Reach Gen Z Students.” They concluded that “the hope of Gen Z is the church,” and listeners left encouraged with a fresh perspective on how to communicate with younger audiences.

University Board Chair Dr. Wayne White found discussions surrounding intergenerational relationships were a helpful takeaway from the conference, and noted, “We need to find a way to lean into the future without destroying the past.”

Related sessions included Kevin Knight’s “All in the Family: How Every Generation Can Assist the Spiritual Formation of Teens and Young Adults” and Kendall Fike’s “Practicing Intergenerational Faith Formation in the Local Church.”

A morning worship session led by Sean Algaier kicked off the second day, followed by keynote speaker Scott Lambert. In his talk, Lambert emphasized that there is still hope for churches since “God is Still in Control,” “People Still Like Jesus” and “I’m Called to Love My Church.”

The Well featured Dr. Darrel Sears, a newly hired member of York University’s Bible and Ministry faculty, who summed up the theme of the conference when he said, “If there is to be hope for the church, there has to be love from the church.”

Carlus Gupton led a series of sessions detailing strategies for small churches, and other speakers throughout Equip included Marvin Bryant, Dr. Mike Case, Dr. Lance Hawley, Brent Johnson, Jeff Hill, Trevon Buchanan, Glenn Dallmann and John Telgren.

Hawley concluded the conference with his lecture “Echoes of the Gilgamesh Tablets in Genesis,” given at the Ides of March dinner, an annual dinner which highlights the Clayton Museum of Ancient History.

Looking back over a packed two days, Josh Ross was inspired by all the church leaders he had the opportunity to connect with. He noted how despite the hard work they were doing, there was no cynicism present in conversations — rather, the general attitude was one of perseverance and hope.

Dr. Best was overwhelmed by the amount of gratitude expressed by attendees.

“I’m so pleased with how this went,” he said. “I think the benefits of this will be seen little by little over the weeks and months to come as people take what they learned back to their congregations. And then next year, we will see Equip continue to grow and get even better.”

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