BOWLING GREEN, KY (11/13/12) – When Erin Pennington went to Passion Conferences in Atlanta, Ga. in 2011, he saw an example of an idea that he would have develop over the following two years. Several months later, he was walking past Van Meter Hall on Western Kentucky University’s campus where he said he started getting an itch to bring together college students of Kentucky for a weekend of worship in a way that was like Passion.
“I thought to myself, we have the perfect set up for a worship service,” he said, referring to Van Meter.
Passion Conferences is a four day Christian conference that takes place every January in Atlanta featuring popular music such as Chris Tomlin, David Crowder and Christy Nockels and speakers such as Francis Chan and John Piper.
As Pennington’s vision developed, he met with his friend, Kevin Harper, to share this idea with him. The two of them began to plan things out the night they met to discuss it. Pennington went to Passion and the idea developed into a conference.
A year later, Pennington has shaped this conference into something called “Ignite.” Pennington plans for the conference to take place March 22-24, 2013 on WKU’s campus. It is currently scheduled to be in Van Meter Hall, though Diddle Arena is another possibility pending the number of people that sign up to come.
Pennington said that, at first, he thought this conference was going to be exactly like Passion, so he contacted them.
“I said, ‘Look here is my idea’ and mainly I was asking to see if they could help me with anything because they are such a large resource bank and full of a lot of things,” he said. “So, I told them my idea and they said they probably couldn’t really help me with what I wanted, unfortunately, but they did kind of give a blessing of ‘if this is your dream, go for it.’ As soon as I got that, Kevin and I really hit the ground running.”
In May 2012, Harper graduated from WKU. Pennington also had the help of his friend Zach Talton for the conference, so the two of them continued going with the idea. Pennington said that Talton is a doer and contributes a lot. Talton is excited about the conference.
“I personally love gathering and working an idea and putting it to process,” Talton said.
Since Harper graduated, Pennington and Talton have been working this semester to form a team of volunteers to get the idea going to the next stages.
“We’ve had two interest meetings so far and I think we have around 30 people who are interested (in helping),” Pennington said. “We are still looking for lots and lots of people. We are probably going to need efforts of round 60 to 75 people to make this conference happen, from now until the conference happens. The day of, we are probably going to need several hundred people to make this thing happen for the weekend. But now, for the long term, we need more than 50 people.”
The conference will feature Blake Bergstrom as the speaker. Bergstrom is the pastor at Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, Tenn.
“He is one of those speakers who really knows how to dig into a person’s heart, tell stories and relate the Gospel in a way that is very conference oriented,” Pennington said.
Music will be led by Ben Woodward, a singer songwriter who is originally from Australia and now lives in Roseville, Calif.
“He is really passionate about getting this generation excited for God and excited for Christ,” Pennington said.
Pennington said the dream of Ignite is not for a conference but for what comes after the conference. He said their dream is for a spark to ignite inside each of the students there for them to go out and spread the Gospel.
He said that this generation is able to reach a lot more people because of the ease of communication. As he is part of this generation, it is special to him and he sees great potential in advancing the Gospel. He says that boundaries are being broken down for the generation to be united.
“As people get closer, gaps tighten,” he said. “We are more like one people. Race, gender and things like that are being thrown out the window, which is awesome. We are all God’s people. This generation is finally, I think, united for the Gospel. That’s what I see with this generation. There are no limits and no boundaries of what we can do. I feel like we are uniting stronger than ever.”
Pennington said that to make the conference happen, they will not only need volunteers to help, but will need financial help as well.
“Ignite is not completely going to be funded by ticket sales,” he said. “Anyone who is looking to donate to the conference can email us. We are looking for anything from personal donations to business sponsorships, to corporate donations.”
In the coming months, Pennington, Talton and the rest of their team will work to bring this idea to action. With hard work, their vision to bring together college students for a weekend of worship will become a reality in March.
“It’s one thing to go and see something,” Talton said. “It’s another thing to be with people, helping encourage and help plan something.”
Pennington has been developing this idea since November 2011. A year later, he is committed to working with his team to make the conference happen.
“We have resources,” he said. “We have the ability to do this so why not do this?”
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