Retreat kicks off yearlong leadership development program
By Myra Holmes
Twenty-one high school students kicked off a year of leadership training and discipleship at the Ministry Quest (MQ) retreat in Denver, Colo., June 24-28. Tabor College, the Mennonite Brethren college in Hillsboro, Kan., owns the MQ program; USMB is a supporting partner.
The yearlong program partners with local congregations to call and equip high school students ages 16-18 who have leadership potential. The year is bookended by retreats; between retreats students are mentored and complete a mission or leadership project. The June retreat, held at the Belleview Community Church facility in Littleton, Colo., began the year for most participants.
The focus of the retreat was exploring what it means to be “called.” Wendell Loewen, MQ director, says, “We’re trying to help them understand their calling and what it means to be a Christian leader in our world today.”
Make no mistake: This isn’t camp. Maybe “retreat” isn’t even the right word to describe it. MQ participant Jessica Lentz calls it “drinking out of a fire hose.”
Each part of the week is intentionally designed to “saturate” the students, help them see through new lenses and “kick open the barn door” to new thinking, according to retreat director Rhonda Dueck. She says planners want the students to “think beyond what they’ve ever dreamed for themselves.”
The intensity and saturation comes through what Loewen calls “experiential learning.” The formal schedule is skeletal, both to allow flexibility and to nudge the students out of their comfort zones. Games and activities are fun but purposeful. The students are given a task—stacking cups, perhaps—and goals—like good communication and teamwork—so that every game becomes an exercise in leadership skills. Even setting up tables or assembling notebooks becomes practice in leading through service.
Although one activity included a time of worship on a scenic vista overlooking the city, Dueck says, “Our goal for this retreat is not a mountaintop experience.” That is, not an emotional high but rather a time of equipping so that students go forward ready to put their leadership gifts into practice during the MQ year.
Daniel Gutierrez, (pictured right) from Grulla MB Church, La Grulla, Texas, dreams about “letting the Word of God out to all my friends and ministering to them.” He says the retreat challenged him not to hold back as he pursues that vision. “God has big plans for all of us,” he says.
Each of the 21 retreat participants were there because they had been nominated by someone in their home congregation. Interested students can’t sign up for the program; they must be chosen and sent. This small detail is significant not only because it reflects the program’s desire to partner with and give back to the local church, but also because it affirms the students’ gifts. Loewen says one of the first messages the planning team conveys to the participants is, “You’re here because someone believes in you.”
Participant Becca Bartel of Dodge City, Kan., says that it was indeed the nudging of a number of people from her congregation that prompted her involvement in MQ. “Both God and people from my congregation tugged at my heart that I should be here,” she says.
For three participants who just completed high school, the retreat wrapped up rather than began the MQ year. Jessica Lentz of Grace Bible Church, Gettysburg, SD, was one of those students. While she says it sometimes felt awkward to be looking back rather than looking forward like the majority, the retreat helped her review and clarify what she’s learned. “MQ taught me about who I am and who I want to be,” she says.
MQ retreat participants will now enter into a mentoring relationship with someone in their home congregation. They will meet intentionally with their mentor every other week and be encouraged to get together more informally to “do life together,” as Loewen says. They will also either participate in a short-term mission experience or initiate a leadership project in which they put their unique gifts and passions to work to meet a need in their church or community.
The MQ retreat participants were: Becca Bartel, Valleyview Bible Church, Cimarron, Kan.; Brianna Berglund, and Jessica Lentz, Grace Bible Church, Gettysburg, SD; Cassidy Burkholder and Jessica Hershberger, Hesston (Kan.) MB Church; Arianna Castillo and Jarret Jones, Neighborhood Church, Visalia, Calif.; Justin Dueck, Meredith Stone and Isaac Dunn, College Community Church MB, Clovis, Calif; Daniel Gutierrez, Kayla Martinez and Talia Ramirez, Grulla MB Church, La Grulla, Texas; Mariah Kliewer and Mandy Rempel, Belleview Community Church, Littleton, Colo.; Peyton Loewen, Josh Wiebe, Erin Winter and Tena Loewen, Parkview MB Church, Hillsboro, Kan.; Molly Wiebe, Hillsboro (Kan.) MB Church; and Emma Wingert, First MB Church, Wichita, Kan.