TC resources congregations in developing leaders
by Myra Holmes
New and improved doesn’t always mean better. A favorite cereal now comes in a more colorful box—with fewer servings. A laundry soap’s “new formula” provides more fillers, not more cleaning power.
But in the case of FaithFront, Tabor College’s new leadership development program aimed at high school students, it’s more than pretty packaging. FaithFront offers improved resources for local congregations and students while keeping the heart of the former program: to call and equip young leaders for ministry.
FaithFront has its roots in Ministry Quest, which began in 2002 as a program of the Mennonite Brethren seminary, then known as MB Biblical Seminary and based in Fresno, Calif. It was funded through a grant from Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic foundation, intended to develop programs at seminaries to nurture the next generation of ministry leaders. Tabor College, the MB liberal arts college based in Hillsboro, Kan., picked up the program in 2011.
When the Lilly Endowment recently offered a new grant for leadership development programs through undergraduate institutions, Tabor took the opportunity to take the best of MQ and roll it into a new program; FaithFront (FF) launched in August 2016, funded by grant monies and a subsidy from USMB.
“Essentially the heart of what we’re trying to do is the same,” says Wendell Loewen, director of FF and professor of youth, church and culture at Tabor. “We’re trying to nurture young leaders for the church.”
While MQ was a one-year program, beginning and ending with retreats, FF offers three levels of involvement, providing more entry points for potential leaders and more resources for congregations.
Explore seminars, hosted at local congregations, offer the most basic level of involvement. While the focus is a basic exploration of leadership and calling, the format of an Explore event flexes according to the requests of the host congregation: It might be an evening with a student leadership team, a 20-minute devotional during a regular youth group meeting or an intensive weekend retreat with student leaders.
Hillsboro (Kan.) MB Church has hosted two Explore workshops and invited the FF team to lead a regular Wednesday evening youth group.
“FaithFront is an exceptional resource available to us at no cost. That’s incredible,” says youth pastor Sara Jo Waldron. “It would be foolish to not utilize FaithFront for blessing, teaching, equipping and empowering our youth to live out their lives for Jesus.”
For students whose interest is sparked, Elevate weekend retreats offer a chance to develop a higher understanding of calling, cultural engagement and leadership. The first retreat was held in October 2016; the second was held April 29-May 1. Participants heard call stories, discussed biblical theology and engaged culture through movies and music.
Encounter then offers an experiential “mobile lab” to put Christian leadership skills into practice. The first Encounter will take place July 22-28. Participants will travel by bus to Denver, Colo., where they will serve the homeless, work with church planters and meet Christian business owners. Participants will then travel to Garden City, Kan., where immigration and refugee issues are front and center, giving students opportunity to engage a cultural issue. Time on the bus will be filled with intentional learning, spiritual formation activities and community building.
The ultimate hope for all three FF offerings is to equip future leaders. Loewen points out that top-tier high school students interested in careers such as medicine or business have ample opportunities to explore those options, but fewer opportunities exist for those interested in ministry. And by ministry, Loewen means pastors, church planters and missionaries but also business owners, teachers, coaches and those “making axe handles.”
So FF aims to work with local congregations to provide opportunities for these potential ministry leaders. “This is where we want to partner with the local church and be a resource for them in helping identify and nurture leaders for the future,” Loewen says.
Waldron believes FF is already making a difference for the young leaders in her congregation, and the impact can only increase as students are equipped and empowered. “I believe that what FaithFront has offered to our young people will significantly impact the future of our congregation in incredible ways,” she says. “It may take years to see the fruit of that, but I believe we will see it.”
For more information on FaithFront, visit www.faithfront.org.
Photo provided by FaithFront.