Seminar speakers provide practical ways to flesh out identity
By Myra Holmes
Students and youth workers attending Named 2015 were challenged to flesh out their identity in Christ through seminars called “Learning Ops.” The conference theme and general sessions aimed to help youth better understand their identity in Christ. The Learning Ops, held in two blocks Saturday morning, were designed to give students further ideas for living out that identity.
“Because we are named, we get to partner with God,” explains planning team member Joanna Chapa. The hope for Learning Ops was that youth would take away openness to God’s call on their life and concrete examples of what partnering with God looks like.
Workshop speakers were encouraged to share their personal stories of being “named” in Christ as they delved into their particular topics. The most well-attended Learning Ops addressed topics of leadership, worship, doubt and mission.
Rick and Karen Bartlett led “Who me? A Leader?” A total of about 200 attended in two sessions. Rick Bartlett is director of theological education at Tabor College Wichita, the Wichita, Kan., campus of the MB-owned college in the Midwest. “Leadership is an activity, not a position,” the Bartletts told attendees. They helped youth consider how their personal passions might intersect the needs around them, and challenged them to take one small step toward leading in that area as they head home.
An estimated 200 also attended one session led by For All Seasons, the California-based band who led worship during the conference (pictured top). During “Who We Are and Why We Worship,” band members told about their journey toward worship and took questions from students about how to use their gifts.
Michael Suderman, (pictured right) evangelist and apologist with Ravi Zacharias Ministries, addressed doubt in his workshop, “Is Christianity Really True?” This was another popular option, with well over 200 attendees in two sessions. Suderman addressed evidence for Christianity based on his own experience and his studies. Students were engaged to the extent that questions and answers overflowed the allotted time.
Ricky Sanchez, regional mobilizer with MB Mission in Thailand, told stories of people whose lives were changed as they identified with Christ—like a pastor tortured and imprisoned for boldly preaching the gospel in a restricted country and a young HIV-positive orphan who immediately began to share with her friends when she accepted Christ.
NYC planning team members asked students to indicate which Learning Ops they were interested in as they registered for the purposes of assigning rooms, but students were clearly free to attend sessions spontaneously.
One topic that drew a larger number of attendees than anticipated was “Violence, Jesus, Peace and Us: Can Christians Use Violence When Necessary?” led by Trent Voth, associate pastor at College Community Church MB, Clovis, Calif. About 125 people attended in two sessions, even though the room was standing-room only. This was another Learning Op that spilled over the time allotted, with students staying to ask questions and discuss the issue.
In a related session, “A Soldier’s Journey Toward Peace,” Titus Peachy, peace education coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), introduced students to Benjamin Peters, who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine and then chose to follow his conscience on a journey toward peace. Peters told his personal story and explored various perspectives on a complex issue. While this session was attended by a smaller number of youth than Voth’s, the students were well-engaged.
Saulo Padilla, another MCC staff member, led a session on immigration issues titled “Loving Strangers as Ourselves.” Padilla told about his own experience of emigrating to Canada and talked about the Bible’s call to welcome strangers.
Silence Breakers, a student group from Tabor College, led a total of about 100 attendees in a single session on sexual addictions, “Renamed: Breaking the Silence about Sexual Sin with Biblical Truth.” The five students on the Silence Breakers panel shared their personal stories with pornography, addiction and sexual sin with an audience of both young men and women and provided resources for help.
Wendell Loewen, professor of youth, church and culture at Tabor College and director of Ministry Quest, led “Named on a Green Vinyl Couch,” in which he told his own story of being “named” and called into a life of investing in future leaders.
Jon Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation, asked youth whether they want to be identified as consumers or stewards in a session on financial responsibility, “Consumer or Steward: Which Path Will You Choose?”
Chandelle Claassen explored how values, both spoken and unspoken, impact choices in “The Impact Our Values Have in Knowing Ourselves and Our Purpose.” A total of about 115 people attended two sessions and worked through a values identification exercise. Claassen is a life coach, homemaker and ministry partner.
In an interactive session, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” Rhonda Dueck challenged attendees to better know and understand their neighbors as part of living out an identity as a Christ-follower. Dueck is program director of Micah Project and adjunct faculty member at Fresno Pacific University.
Ed Boschman, retired USMB executive director and current life coach and consultant, explored what it means to be named a witness for Christ in two sessions of “Being a Witness among Bikers, Golfers and Other Sinners.” He challenged students with stories from his own experiences of building relationships and leading friends to Christ.
Photos by Vance Frick, Tabor College