by Benjamin Konuch, Student Public Relations Writer
When The Gospel Coalition launched a worldwide essay competition for young writers focusing on Gen Z this summer, two junior Cedarville University professional writing and information design (PWID) students boldly answered the call. Out of 217 submissions, Abby Jo Thompson won first place in the competition with her submission “Gen Z Needs a Place at Your Kitchen Table,” and Crissa Esse won second place with her essay “Faithful Pastors, You Matter to Your Youth.”
While Thompson’s winning submission was anything but ordinary, she stressed that the circumstances around writing her story were quite the opposite. She first heard of the competition when Dr. Nick Carrington, associate professor of communication, emailed her the details with an invitation to submit an entry. While she initially didn’t think she had the time to answer the challenge, she wanted to do justice to Carrington’s confidence and wrote the winning essay about an idea she is deeply passionate about.
“Our culture and generation especially are so consumed by entertainment and media that we very seldom experience things that are real.” said Thompson. “We need people who come to us to make an impact not from afar or through a screen, but through hospitality and kindness.”
Thompson’s essay serves as an analysis piece on how Gen Z can’t be won over and reached through empty entertainment and hollow gestures, but through acts of genuine hospitality and true servanthood. Part exposé on the current state of churches and part personal memoir, Abigail wrote from her own personal experiences in a way that she hopes will spark conversations.
“We have to be intentional with Gen Z,” said Thompson. “I think back to my high school years and just seeing how broken people were — I think that if more people had been intentional about inviting those who were broken or struggling into their lives and homes, I feel like there could have been so much more transformation.”
Esse’s submission highlights the ways pastors faithfully minister to the younger members of their congregation in ways that often go unnoticed, choosing to utilize vulnerable examples from her own life story to showcase this behind-the-scenes faithful service. While Esse was eager to submit an entry for the contest, she was initially worried that her experiences and ultimately her essay wouldn’t be special enough.
“Being able to share part of my story and seeing how it encouraged others was a reminder that no story is insignificant because God wrote all of them, and yours can be used in incredible ways,” said Esse. “Don’t ever be afraid to share your story, because you never know who may be encouraged by it.”
Esse and Thompson both credit their success in part to their PWID classes at Cedarville, which have honed a love of writing she’s held ever since she was young.
“I think PWID has really helped me hone the technical side of writing,” said Thompson. “And then the life experiences of the churches I’ve been a part of and how hospitality was modeled in my life just filled in the rest.”
Both Thompson and Esse share a friendship and a class together, making the news of their winning even more exciting for them.
“It’s amazing how Cedarville gives you the opportunity to be surrounded by people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about,” Esse said.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 5,456 undergraduate, graduate, and dual enrolled high school students in more than 175 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and Information Design, high graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and the #4 national ranking by the Wall Street Journal for student engagement. For more information about the University, visit cedarville.edu.