The following report was originally submitted to the leadership of Indiana-Michigan Conference. It is re-posted here with Derrick’s permission.
by Derrick Ramer, Youth Pastor at Emma Mennonite Church, Topeka, IN
“Biblical leadership: Leadership is an influence relationship between leaders and followers that intends real change according to mutual purposes”. – John Stahl-Wert
Youth Ministry Council (YMC) was held at Amigo Centre in Sturgis Michigan over May 7-10, 2013. Each conference in MC USA is invited to send a representative to Youth Ministry council, specifically the conference youth pastor if there is one on staff. YMC is also comprised of church-wide agency staff and representatives whose ministries serve youth and youth leaders. With it being so close to Elkhart County there were several local youth pastors who were able to attend for a day or two. This was something YMC would love to see in subsequent years.
The theme which we gathered around this year led by the Youth Ministry Leadership Team was leadership. We started the weekend with the washing of feet, following Jesus’ example of how to do servant leadership. We had meaningful conversations around ideas such as; “If leadership is everything, it is nothing”, and “Can a pastor be prophet?”. These were conversations with people passionate about leadership and the Spirit was present.
Youth Ministry Council had an opportunity to talk about several things that are significant for youth ministry. Many feel that there is something new on the horizon for the church and for youth ministry, and there was space to dream and share our hopes and fears. We talked about the continued influence of technology and how that presents new possibilities and a new set of challenges. We engaged the Purposeful Plan and discussed how the seven church wide priorities can be/are effective priorities for youth ministry, and discussed ways to incorporate them into youth ministry.
I am particularly excited about the discussion that happened while engaging the Purposeful Plan. It seems to me that youth ministry is often without a direction and not connected with the overall church. I think the Purposeful Plan has the potential to help focus youth ministry and be an effective measuring stick for how effective it is. I believe that youth ministry and the larger church sharing a goal can help keep them more closely integrated. It is my hope that individual churches youth programs are addressing the seven church wide priorities: Christian Formation, Christian Community, Holistic Christian Witness, Stewardship, Leadership Development, Undoing Racism and Advancing intercultural Transformation and Church-to-Church Relationships. If youth ministries are focusing on these seven, I think it will go a long way to giving direction and focus to youth ministry across Mennonite Church USA.
We also had an opportunity to look at the future for YMC and for the Denominational Youth Minister position. We looked at the purpose and job descriptions of both, doing some revisioning and redefining. We spent time wondering about the people who were not represented at the table for YMC; non-Anglo churches and, and churches and conferences who do not have paid staff positions for youth ministry. It is important to do this because there is much to be learned from these voices; both insights for what is working well in their ministry settings and how the Denomination and Conferences can better come alongside them in their ministry.
Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) extended an offer to YMC this year. MEA’s Mennonite Educators Conference, February 6-8, 2014 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, will feature speakers Kenda Creasy-Dean, Carlos Romero, Sandra Drescher-Lehman, Luke and Stacy Hartman. MEA has invited YMC to join this convention and to offer a youth ministry track. It is a wonderful idea for MEA to offer something like this beyond just our Mennonite schools. It is an example of how our Mennonite agencies can help foster growth in the larger church and not just in their specific area of ministry. It is my hope that youth pastors in Indiana-Michigan conference are able to take advantage of this opportunity and attend.
It was a blessing and privilege to be asked to represent Indiana-Michigan Conference again this year at YMC. God is moving and working in MC USA. It is life giving to spend time with people who know this, who are paying attention to where the Spirit is moving and trying to be faithful by joining in.