If you’ve spent time around the Love Thy Nerd community you’ve probably heard about LTN Con, the annual Love Thy Nerd conference, held for the first time in October of this year. But if you missed out, I’d like to bring you a peek into what it was like to be there! LTN Con was a chance for members of our community and anyone interested in our work to come together for—as one person put it—a weird and wonderful family reunion. We got to learn about our ministry and share the nerdy things we love.LTN Con was a chance for members of our community and anyone interested in our work to come together for—as one person put it—a weird and wonderful family reunion.
The conference started with an “early access” dinner on Thursday for attendees who give monthly support to Love Thy Nerd. Much socializing and many games occurred. We walked to a local restaurant that evening where we were treated to tacos as a small “thank you” from the LTN staff for our support. After dinner, the first annual Nerdie awards (you know, like the Dundies) were held, where people were recognized (and received silly trophies) for their support and for going above and beyond to help make LTN what it is. I loved getting to hear about all the people that were supporting LTN in ways I didn’t even know about. We are truly a fantastic group of nerds, and I applaud you all.
The conference proper kicked off Friday evening with an intro session lead by Chris Gwaltney, LTN’s Chief Executive Nerd. He shared a few stories about two kinds of people: those who will never set foot in your church, and those who are already in your church but are feeling out of place and even alienated. Those are illustrations of the kind of people who LTN exists to love and serve.
Saturday morning started with a session on Relational Outreach from Matt Warmbier, Chief Outreach Nerd. He talked about wanting to be where the people are as a key point of doing our type of outreach. Bubba Stallcup, LTN’s Chief Community Nerd, gave a talk about Intentional Community, and how seeing people as people—not projects—is vital to building community. Saturday’s sessions concluded with a talk about Thoughtful Content from Drew Dixon, Chief Content Nerd, and April-Lyn Caouette, Chief Resource Nerd. They emphasized the importance of seeing the value in all types of culture—not just our own fandoms—and talked about resources they hope to provide for ministries in the future.
If you’ve spent time around LTN before or read some of the interviews I’ve done with the founders, much of the material covered in these sessions would have been review. But what you missed out on was the personal aspect that each of these people brought to their sessions—their personal faith journeys and how they live out what they do with LTN in their everyday lives; lessons they’ve learned the hard way; people they’ve met just by being their nerdy and loving selves.
A large part of the schedule was designated as free-play time. This may seem odd. Why pay to come to a conference where most of the schedule is empty? What it didn’t convey, however, is the wonderful opportunity this was to make new friends and to strengthen relationships, many of which had only existed online until that weekend. Some of my favorite memories of LTN Con were hugging people I had only ever interacted with over the internet, or sitting down and talking with people I’d never even met. This is our value of Intentional Community in action. The free-play time allowed attendees to share whatever they were nerdy about, be it through games, watching a movie, or exploring virtual reality together at The Void.
But free-play time wasn’t completely unscheduled. More than 20 games were available as “Play-to-Win” games. A few attendees had the opportunity to demo a board game currently in development called Deliverance, (coming to Kickstarter soon!), and community member John Ibsen graciously organized and ran a Star Wars Destiny draft, complete with prizes.
Outside of board games, Jamie Lew Harris of Satellite Gaming organized a video game tournament, and despite stiff competition from the Warmbier children, LTN Beta Tester (intern) Dustin Davis was ultimately victorious. In addition, I organized five TTRPG games. Shout out to Casey Flynt, Jonathan Reedy, and Andrew Klooster for GMing with me! I couldn’t have done it without them.Some of my favorite memories of LTN Con were hugging people I had only ever interacted with over the internet, or sitting down and talking with people I’d never even met.
The most meaningful part of the convention for me was on the final day. Drew led us in a reflection on the importance of rest to God, and how when we feel alone in an uphill battle against the world—or against misinformed ideas in the church—God is always with us. Not only that, there are other people fighting the same fight. We took Communion, reflecting on the sacrifice made for us and rejoicing in the new life we have in Jesus.
As this was the first-ever LTN Con, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was phenomenal. There is nothing like getting to hug someone you’ve only talked to for months online. There is nothing like getting to celebrate, in-person, the holiest of observations we can make as the Body of Christ with Christians who you’ve cheered for and prayed for, but always from a physical distance. Next year, LTN Con will be bigger and have even more opportunities to learn about LTN’s mission, as well as to nerd out with your fellow nerds. I’d love to hug you there next year.
Editor’s Note: If you were not able to join us at LTN Con in person this year, we will be making videos of the sessions available in the coming months so you can get a further taste of what you missed. #staytuned