This article was originally published by The Mennonite

EMM refocuses discipleship training programs

Photo: Eastern Mennonite Missions GO! participant Sherida Cross (right) helps Cheng Yen (left) and Darren with a photo frame craft at Immanuel Community Church in New York City. Photo provided by Sherida Cross.

“Missions isn’t just a calling for some and not for others, or a calling on part of my life but not other parts. We believe in a more holistic approach to missions,” said Troy Landis, discipleship coach for Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM). “We’ve heard people’s desire to live out their missional calling every day, rather than doing an assignment or joining a program.”

In response, EMM is bringing a renewed focus to helping people integrate discipleship and mission into daily life wherever they are. “When we talk about doing missional discipleship locally right in the midst of life, people get excited – and we get excited, too,” Landis said. “We want to see everyone moving in mission.”

EMM’s goal in this new approach is to invite all believers to learn how to partner with God’s plan, whether people are living in their home communities or overseas.

“We want to increase the discipleship and mission energy locally, so that it will also provide space for more people to hear God’s call to be a part of what He’s doing around the world,” Landis said. “Practically, we aim to make our short-term international assignments more focused and accessible, allowing people to gain experience and skills in a specific area, and to learn how to be disciples who make disciples in their daily lives.”

EMM will now offer coaching and resources to help organic, in-life, missional discipleship happen. These build on the discipleship resources and learnings from discipleship programs like YES (Youth Evangelism Service) and STAT (Summer Training Action Teams).

EMM will continue to send people on short-term international assignments with pre-, on-, and post-field training, and there will be a mix of individual and team assignments. These experiences will focus on specific skills or activities, transferable to ministry throughout participants’ lives.

GO! Summer is a new seven-week program consisting of one week of training, five weeks of outreach, and one week of debrief, beginning in summer 2016. Discipleship and mission concepts are discussed throughout the experience, helping people treasure the kingdom of God in deeper ways and be better equipped to share it with others.

EMM will continue to offer Mission Internships for people to explore and develop particular ministry and practical skills. Interns engage in a particular ministry focus, such as transformational business; prayer and intercession; education,;children at risk; refugee resettlement,;or church planting. EMM interns are organized into cohorts that enable them to share experiences virtually as they grow and learn in their particular setting and ministry skill. Interns can be full-time or part-time, serving locally or in various locations around the world.

EMM’s K-teams (Kingdom teams) program continues to be an opportunity for youth groups to experience discipleship and urban ministry for five days during the summer. K-teams include an introduction to basic mission and discipleship concepts and ministry opportunities alongside a local church.

In addition to offering these short-term assignments, EMM is helping to form groups called “Multipliers.” Multipliers is a nine-month learning journey in a small group that explores simple disciple-making principles. It also provides accountability and encouragement to live out these principles and pass them on to others. These groups are open to anyone and have a flexible format.

Earlier this year, a group of seven from Byerland Mennonite Church, Lancaster, Pa., completed 16 sessions of Multipliers over eight months.

Joe Garber, pastor of Byerland, participated with the group. “In Multipliers I discovered our need to bring discipleship back to the basics: relationship with God and others, accountability, and action,” Garber said. This fall, the Byerland participants are leading three new groups within their congregation.

Since the 1950s, EMM has developed short-term programs that allowed people to step out of their regular lives and to give time to cross-cultural service and deepening of their relationship with God and others. The structures of those programs changed over the years as the Spirit of God led EMM leaders to connect with each new generation. With this current shift in short-term program focus, EMM is phasing out the 35-year-old YES program. EMM will hold an event on May 21, 2016, at Lancaster Mennonite School, Lancaster, Pa., to celebrate the YES program’s long and fruitful ministry.

YES began in 1980 and has sent almost 1900 young adults on 446 teams. The teams have served in 13 states and 56 countries. EMM President Nelson Okanya served in YES in 1996, as a YES team leader in 1997-98, and as an assistant director and director of the Baltimore YES Training Center in 1998-99.

“It is hard to let go of a program that has been effective for 35 years and has provided spiritual transformation in the lives of so many,” Okanya said. “My life is a living testimony of the effectiveness of our programs and our work as a mission agency.” Okanya said he is “looking forward to an approach to missions that will once again capture the imaginations of youth and young adults and compel them not to settle for anything other than becoming God’s transformational agents so that God’s righteousness and praise may spring forth before all nations.”

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