This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Culture Shock conference equips Mennonite youth of color

Photo: Participants at Culture Shock, a conference equipping young leaders of color in Mennonite Church USA, pose for a group photo during worship at Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Virginia. Photo by Shé Langley. 

Neon flashing lights. Christian Hip Hop playing in the background. The house band getting setup in the band pit. Excited chatter filling the room. The mood was set. A vibrant countdown ran down to 0:00 on the big screens letting the 350 people who had gathered to worship, dance and laugh at Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Virginia, on Friday, Aug. 26, know that it was time to kick off Culture Shock 2016.

Culture Shock, a conference aimed at equipping young leaders of color, was sponsored by Mennonite Church USA and Calvary Community Church. Additional support and programming was provided by a number of sponsors including Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Everence, Goshen (Indiana) College, Hesston (Kansas) College and Mennonite Mission Network.

Friday events

Friday night’s events included a concert and comedy show featuring Alex Holt and Free Worship that was free and open to the public. The group opened and closed the event with up-tempo hits, including one of their newest songs “Nobody.”

KevOnStage, an entertainer known for his comedic YouTube videos (many with over 1 million views) was the featured comedian.

Saturday events

On Saturday, Aug. 27th, about 85 registered participants filed into the Youth Worship Hall at Calvary.

Rachel Gerber, MC USA Denominational Youth Minister, led the morning devotion. She introduced participants to the electric eel, its undesirable appearance, the power of its shock and the fact that it still needs air to survive. She then likened the eel to the disciples, specifically Peter and his denigrated fisherman career, his need for the Holy Spirit and the way he was able to touch others exponentially to powerfully “shock the world.” She told participants that they have the power through the Holy Spirit to change their families, schools, communities and the world and asked them to consider how they were going to shock the world.

Pastor Lesley F. McClendon from Calvary spoke on “Inner Branding.” She told participants when people see them, they see their brand and she asked if they were wearing their brand well. She encouraged participants to invest in themselves before investing on themselves and not to sacrifice their identity for someone else’s.

The next workshop session was presented by members of the Hampton Police Department. Major Kenneth Ferguson, Officer David Johnson, Corporal Shaun Stalnaker and Commonwealth Attorney

A member of the Hampton Police Department involves Culture Shock participants in a demonstration. Photo by Shé Langley.
A member of the Hampton Police Department involves Culture Shock participants in a demonstration. Photo by Shé Langley.

Anton Bell each spoke about their upbringing and who they are today. They wanted participants to understand that officers are people too, when often others just see a uniform. Major Ferguson gave a brief history of policing in America starting in the 1800s and moving up to today’s 21st Century policing involving de-escalation tactics and technology. The law enforcement representatives involved participants in role playing exercises that informed them about stereotyping, human bias, contact theory, choice making and the arrest process.

After a pizza lunch and game, Del Hershberger and Justin Chambers from Mennonite Mission Network and the DOOR service program took a few moments to discuss opportunities to serve and encouraged participants to consider the ways they can use their voices, privilege, positions and times of service in ministry to help amplify others’ voices and stories.

Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid at Hesston College talked about college basics. Using principles taught in one of Hesston’s leadership courses, she walked participants through the process of selecting a college.

Beryl Jantzi, director of Stewardship Education for Everence, was next in the Saturday workshop lineup. He taught participants about stewardship and tips for managing finances. Participants also played a game of Jeopardy. Tables worked together to choose a question from categories like “Teens and Money,” “Debt,” and “Bible and Money.”

Glen Guyton, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Convention Planning for MC USA spoke on discovering your calling. He gave participants an acronym to remember: To get where you want to go, take a C.A.R.: choices, actions, responses. Guyton gave participants a charge to believe in the value they bring in spite of others wanting to put limits on them. He told them to be who they are and God will reward them.

Alicia Gaston from Calvary closed out the Saturday sessions by introducing participants to “Character Couture,” one of the featured projects of her Maximizing Character program which teaches character-building lessons to youth in a community-based setting. The program includes an annual fashion show. For Culture Shock, Gaston chose participant volunteers to walk the runway and create their own Character Couture fashion show.

Sunday events

The conference concluded on Sunday with Calvary’s morning worship service. In his sermon, Pastor Caleb McClendon gave a brief synopsis of what went on Friday and Saturday and then spoke

Pastor Caleb McClendon speaks during Friday evening's worship service at Culture Shock. Photo by Shé Langley.
Friday evening’s worship service at Culture Shock. Photo by Shé Langley.

about the process that everyone has to go through to achieve greatness.

Using call and response with the audience, storytelling, moments of comedic relief and biblical stories from Proverbs 27 and Habakkuk 2, McClendon used the story of Moses and Joseph to show that moments that seem unnecessary are preparing and equipping people for a life-changing moment. He also used the training process of athletes in this year’s Olympics as an example, saying the Gold medals were won as a result of the four year training process, not the race. He charged the congregation to stay faithful in their process, because God will reward faithfulness and reminded them that preparation time is never wasted time.

The service concluded with a group picture of all Culture Shock 2016 participants.

If you would like to view the recorded sessions from Culture Shock use the links below:

Friday Night Live Concert and Comedy

Saturday Workshops

Sunday Morning Worship

If you are interested in bringing Culture Shock to your church or community, contact Glen Guyton.

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