PDC Board of Youth Ministries thankful to see the fruit of relationships
By Connie Faber
Fruit abounds in California’s Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. But when Jordan Ringhofer, chair of the Pacific District Conference (PDC) Board of Youth Ministries, talks about “fruit” in this region he’s not referring to grapes or apricots.
Ringhofer is describing a one-day youth conference Nov. 10 hosted by California’s Central Valley Mennonite Brethren youth pastors.
“Increasing our connection as youth pastors and youth groups has been on our (Board of Youth Ministries) heart for the last 10 years,” says Ringhofer. “It takes time to build relationships and this event is the fruit of relationships that we’ve been praying for and hoping for.”
Building connections among the 115 congregations in the PDC is challenging for a number of reason, says Ringhofer. Distance is one. The PDC encompasses USMB churches in Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon and Utah.
“The physical difference of the miles between us causes a disconnect in relationships,” says Ringhofer, who has served USMB churches in both Oregon and California.
Communities are also different, as are the geographic regions within the PDC, and this impacts local churches. Churches also differ in size, ethnic composition, ministry emphasis and worship preferences.
“There are huge differences in what we look like,” says Ringhofer. “We work with a variety of kids. These differences won’t go away. But the heart of our ministry is the same. We want our kids to understand this and to experience doing ministry together. We want to increase our interaction so that our youth seek out other PDC churches as they live out their lives.”
Ringhofer is thankful for the support of PDC district minister Gary Wall in the board's efforts to forge relationships. "Gary was very instrumental and supportive. He provided initial credibility and support," says Ringhofer. "He was really instrumental in this process."
An important step in developing and strengthening connections has been a four-day, three-night youth pastor’s retreat that the Board of Youth Ministries initiated six years ago. This annual event has encouraged youth pastors to “become friends in ministry and life,” says Ringhofer.
The one-day youth event this weekend traces its beginning to just the sort of friendship that Ringhofer describes and the decision of three Fresno, Calif., youth pastors—Trent Voth of College Community Church MB, Matt Ford of North Fresno MB Church and Jason Kinzel of Bethany MB Church—to travel together to the National MB Youth Convention in San Antonio, Texas.
Several activities, including worship nights, bowling and parties, were organized throughout the year in order to build closer relationships between the three youth groups. After traveling to San Antonio, the three groups continued to meet together every few months.
At the same time, the three youth pastors also began meeting every few weeks for prayer, encouragement and fellowship. This gathering soon grew to include Eric Young of Reedley MB Church and Brent Sawatsky of Dinuba MB Church.
Voth says, “As the friendships grew, we recognized a shared desire for greater connection and relationship between our MB churches, especially as we look at the strained relationships some of our conference churches are experiencing. As we move forward as a denomination we saw a need for stronger ties.”
Noting the strong relationships between the youth groups in the Southern District that have been established through annual youth conventions and camps, the group decided to resurrect the idea of a PDC youth convention, a dream shared by the PDC Board of Youth Ministries.
And so youth groups from across the PDC are invited to gather Saturday at College Community Church MB in Clovis, Calif., around the theme “Together: For Kingdom, Church and Community.” While all PDC youth groups are invited, organizers are specifically targeting USMB congregations in California’s Central Valley, from Visalia to Madera.
This is the second regional youth event currently organized by PDC youth pastors and supported by the Board of Youth Ministries. PDC youth groups in the Pacific Northwest began meeting five years ago for a youth retreat.
“We didn’t plan (either of the regional youth retreats) but hoped events like this would come from relationships among youth pastors,” says Ringhofer.
Both the Board of Youth Ministries and the Central Valley youth pastors would like to see the Central Valley youth event grow into a district-wide conference, much like those held some 20 years ago.
“We would love to see these types of relationships grow, and one of the best ways we could see this happening is through an annual PDC youth convention,” says Central Valley planning team member Voth. “We would love to see it expand and grow into something more in the future.”
Voth says, “We want to have ties of friendship, if not family, between our churches so that we would care more and work more to stay together and further the kingdom together.”
PDC Youth Invited To Gather Together
Youth groups from across the Pacific District Conference are invited to gather Nov. 10 at College Community Church MB in Clovis, Calif., around the theme “Together: For Kingdom, Church and Community.”
While all PDC youth groups are invited, organizers are specifically targeting USMB congregations in California’s Central Valley, from Visalia to Madera.
“The primary purpose is to reflect and encourage the young people in our churches that we are called to be one family and church, to further the kingdom and do ministry together,” says planning team member Trent Voth, youth pastor at College Community.
“Additionally, our desire is to strengthen the relationships between our youth groups with the hope that those relationships will eventually strengthen the connections between our congregations and denomination,” says Voth. “More and more it seems like our disagreements threaten to pull us apart, and that we have few ties holding us together. We want to have ties of friendship, if not family, between our churches so that we would care more and work more to stay together and further the kingdom together.”
The one-day event, scheduled from 8:30 am to 5 p.m., will open and close with a time of worship led by Steve Bomar, worship pastor at North Fresno MB Church.
Teens will spend the bulk of the morning involved in an activity of their choice. The options include a service project coordinated by Ken Wilkinson, youth pastor at Mountain View Community Church of Fresno, Calif.; a prayer and learning tour of downtown Fresno facilitated by Matt Ford, pastor at North Fresno MB Church; and workshops on mission, worship, leadership and theology.
Workshop leaders include Bomar, who will talk about leading and facilitating worship; Mark Thompson of MB Mission, who will share stories about missions and explore how one can participate in missions; Rhonda Dueck of Ministry Quest, who will talk about preparing for leadership and understanding God’s call to ministry; and Trent Voth who will explore the Christian’s place as citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom and citizens of an earthly nation as it relates to voting, immigration, abortion, homosexual marriage and non-violence.
Following lunch, the students and sponsors will gather for a time of sharing, prayer, worship and a message presented by Forrest Jeanan, family pastor at Neighborhood Church in Visalia, Calif. A communion service and blessing will conclude the day.
Planning team members come from seven California congregations: Matt Ford of North Fresno MB Church, Jason Kinzel of Bethany MB Church in Fresno, Eric Young of Reedley MB Church, Jordan Ringhofer of Kingsburg MB Church, Trent Voth of College Community Church MB in Clovis, Ken Wilkinson of Mountain View Community Church in Fresno and Brent Sawatsky of Dinuba MB Church.
The PDC Board of Youth Ministries is covering most of the costs for the one-day conference and participating churches are invited to contribute a donation as they are able.