Stacey DePluzer, assistant to the Illinois Conference Youth Director, makes a point
It’s a 24-hour intergenerational advisory session held bi-annually in Shipshewana, Indiana on the coattails of the Youth Evangelism Congress. Over forty people stayed behind to attend this closer-knit session where conference youth directors and delegates alike hold raw dialogue on how the conference can better serve their constituent young adults.
This year’s focus was “Mission, on Purpose.” Dr. Randy Seibold, co-director of the Global Leadership Institute at Andrews University was the main presenter. His question to the group at the beginning of the session was, “How can we help you better understand how to go and make impact in your church, and how can we serve you better?"
The advisory helped delegates find community with other leaders amid the various nuances of mission and service. Seibold helped facilitate that by devoting a sizeable amount of time to icebreakers and deeper interaction. Later, Seibold asked the delegates to discuss in a group some of the positive and negative experiences that each person has had in their church experience. This brought up a wide range of ideas and discussions that was able to generate solutions for some of the issues that were brought up.
A strong emphasis was placed on the Center for Youth Evangelism’s “Church of Refuge” or “COR” framework. Ron Whitehead, Lake Union director of Youth Ministries and director of the Center for Youth Evangelism said that they surveyed young adults for months on what they would want in a church “and we came up with nine core values that young adults highlighted as something that they would want in a church.” Delegates were shown the importance of each COR value, as well as shown how they can implement these in their own church.
On Monday, delegates were tasked with discussing their local problems with their conference’s delegation and youth director. A wide range of issues and solutions were fleshed out, and new ministry ideas and concepts were weighed. The intergenerational community and teamwork were inspirational. Legitimacy was granted to everybody, no matter their idea or background. It was advisory in nature to all sides of the leadership spectrum, and everyone was able to come out of the advisory session with renewed passion for ministry and teamwork.
“I really enjoyed the time that I had with the [conference delegation],” said Anna Stephenson, a delegate from Indiana. “A lot of the ideas that we were coming up with as a conference were really good. I wish we had more time.”
Another delegate, Dorothy Coomba, felt like she was able to glean a lot of leadership tools and information from the advisory session. She was also felt that she was able to see more clearly her calling to be a leader. “For me as an introvert, I thought that I wasn’t going to be a good leader. But with the tools that they gave me here, I know I can be a leader, too”, she said.
Youth directors from all five conferences hope that they have equipped the young adults with effective tools that they can use at home. “I hope that everyone that attended has the drive to go and make disciples. To go and get into the communities and meet the needs of the people”, said Latita Thomas, representing the Lake Region Conference Youth Department.
Pastor Zack Payne, Youth Director of the Wisconsin Conference had a similar idea: “I hope that it can show young adults that they already have the power to go and change their context. Whether it’s at a local church or a public campus, I think that we were giving them a framework, but really telling them that they already possess the qualities to be able to do powerful things. We just want to give them clarity and sharpen their focus on the way forward.”
Whitehead said that he heard from the young adults was their love for God and love for their church. “I love their openness and kindness when they say, ‘We’ve got to approach how congregations connect to this generation [differently].’ We can’t keep doing this the same way and expect to retain more of this generation. We’ve got to think of some new approaches.”
Samuel Girven, Cadillac Church’s assistant Communication secretary, blogs for the Lake Union Communication department. You can read earlier blog posts about the Lake Union Youth Evangelism Congress here: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.