Mennonite Church USA’s Youth Ministry Council worked to make implicit Anabaptist values more explicit Jan. 29-Feb. 1 in Orlando, Fla.
Forty-two youth workers attended “The Gathering” to network, encourage, worship and explore faith formation through real-life scenarios.
“It was an amazing time of meeting, connecting and problem-solving with other Anabaptist youth ministers and pastors,” said Lindsay Diener, youth minister at Jubilee Mennonite Church in Meridian, Miss. “As a new youth minister, I sometimes feel I’m fumbling around in the dark. After The Gathering, I feel that I have a network of support and people who have wisdom that I can draw from in the future.”
The theme for this year’s gathering was “Ministry Matters: Youth and Real-World Theology.” Participants were invited ahead of time to submit case studies based on experiences in ministry. The group spent most of their time analyzing these case studies to figure out effective approaches based on experiences and Anabaptist values.
“We were looking for something really tactile, hands-on and practical,” said Rachel Springer Gerber, denominational minister for youth and young adults. “We hoped our discussions could have practical benefits for youth workers in their home contexts.”
Hesston (Kan.) College Bible and ministry faculty member Michele Hershberger facilitated discussions exploring Anabaptist youth ministry distinctives.
“I think it’s good every once in a while to revisit what we do in our approach to ministry that is distinctively Anabaptist,” Gerber said. “Anabaptism informs our faith and therefore our ministry, but too often, those values are implicit, understood or assumed. This weekend we hoped to make our implicit Anabaptist values explicit, becoming more aware of how they influence our ministry with youth and young adults.”
This was the first year the Youth Ministry Council coincided with the annual gathering of Mennonite campus pastors of colleges, universities and seminaries. “It was great to connect with the broader YMC, to see other friends and colleagues from around the church,” said Goshen (Ind.) College campus pastor Bob Yoder.
This year was also a transitional year for the title of this annual meeting of youth workers. The creation of MC USA’s The Gathering Place website in July provided youth workers a space for virtual networking and support. In the same vein, The Gathering will offer real-life, real-time space for those involved in faith- formation work.
“For people already familiar with Youth Ministry Council, we called it YMC: The Gathering 2016,” Gerber said. “Next year it’ll simply be The Gathering 2017.”
At the close of the meetings, MC USA’s Youth Ministry Leadership Team, which supports the denominational minister for youth and young adults and sets the vision for youth faith formation, announced the following transitions in leadership:
Concluding their three-year terms of service:
– Michele Hershberger, representative for Mennonite Education Agency, Hesston College.
– Cedric Roth, youth minister for Franklin Mennonite Conference.
Kim Litwiller, associate conference minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference, is beginning a three-year term.
Continuing team members:
– John Stoltzfus, youth minister for Franconia Mennonite and Eastern District conferences.
– Olivia Bartel, representative for Mennonite Camping Association.
– Lesley and Caleb McClendon, assistant pastors of youth at Calvary Community Church, Hampton, Va.
– Andrea Wall, co-pastor at Bethesda Mennonite Church, Henderson, Neb.
– Danilo Sanchez, representative for Mennonite Church U.S. and youth pastor for Lehigh Valley, Pa.