It’s not just about religion – the Jesus Tent at Bonnaroo brings a chance to meet the needs of close to 18,000 people who stop by over the course of the festival.
Manchester’s First Baptist Church Associate Pastor of Missions and Evangelicalism, Jake Dorak, heads the project. He has been in the role since 2014 and said this is part of his calling to reach young adults. As a former youth pastor, a lot of the kids he taught are now young adults.
Bonnaroo’s target demographic is that same generation.
“When I saw millennials walking away from the church, I saw that something needs to happen,” he said. “They are moving away from the church and we need to do something about that.”
Dorak said the Jesus Tent is a servant evangelism tent.
“We give away water, coffee, lemonade, fruit, snacks and phone charging. Basically, we just want to be there to meet physical needs, and if a spiritual needs emerge, we want to be there to meet those spiritual needs with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Dorak explained reaching out to meet the physical needs of the festival goers with the free items usually leads to the question: why are you doing this?
That opens the door for a conversation about their faith.
“We believe that God became man, came to Earth for us, to serve and love us. And we want to do the same thing,” Dorak said.
The Jesus Tent started in 2002 with Trinity Baptist partnered with FBC to distribute water along the interstate during the infamous traffic jam of the inaugural Bonnaroo.
In the following years, the churches found slice of property in the camping area at Bonnaroo that a family rents them. Duck River Baptist Association, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and a group of churches across the state all work together to man and supply the Jesus tent.
“We are there 24 hours from Wednesday to Sunday afternoon. We have teams of college students that do overnight shifts,” Dorak said.
Each year, 200-250 people volunteer for a minimum of three-hour shifts.
“This started with local pastors who saw a need. They organized their people to go and help meet those needs, and it just kept building after that,” Dorak said.
“It’s the highlight of my year and is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my ministry.”
The Jesus Tent is located in the camping area between Camp Dr. Peter Venkman and Camp Ace Ventura. On Sunday morning, the Becky Buller Band will perform a coffeehouse-style music service and a local pastor will speak.
“It’s really cool to have everyone at Bonnaroo singing ‘Amazing Grace’ together,” Dorak said.