Vision summit addresses leadership development

Summit described as a "family gathering" to discuss problems and brainstorm next steps

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USMB national director Don Morris, left, moderates a question and answer session with Tabor College president David Janzen and Fresno Pacific University president André Stephens during the January 2024 vision summit on leadership development. Photo: Connie Faber

Fifty-seven people gathered Jan. 8-10 at Copper Hills Community Church, Peoria, Arizona, for a by-invitation-only vision summit convened by USMB national director Don Morris and focused on the shortage of young leaders.

“This is a family gathering,” Morris said in the opening session. “We want to talk openly and kindly. We want to identify the problems we have and why. When we are finished, we want to have answered the question, where do we go from here.”

Morris worked with the USMB National Strategy Team to plan and host the summit that brought together selected pastors and leaders involved in leadership development. The event addressed three topics:

  • generational and global trends that contribute to the shortage of young leaders,
  • current church culture and
  • U.S. Mennonite Brethren educational culture.

The format for each topic included a time of worship led by Copper Hills musicians, a short presentation by an USMB ministry leader, discussion and prayer guided by Jana Hildebrandt and Andy Owen, pastoral staff at Ridgepoint Church, Wichita, Kan.

A key component for each topic was discussion as table groups, assigned small groups and/or as a large group. In fact, the schedule set aside twice as much time for discussion as presentations. Groups discussed prepared questions that addressed challenges and barriers to leadership development and how these are being dealt with, what is and isn’t working in efforts to develop leaders and how Multiply, FPU and TC and denominational programs can be better utilized.

Daniel Rodriguez, Central District Conference minister, Jordan Ringhofer, Pacific District Conference minister, and Galen Wiest, Multiply director of mobilization, served as discussion leaders. Each moderator was paired with a secretary that recorded the group’s comments. Large group discussions were also recorded. Notes from the small and large group discussions were compiled and forwarded to the National Strategy Team.

Presenters were Kyle Goings, USMB NextGen chair, addressing generational and cultural trends; Joanna Chapa, Multiply mission mobilizer, speaking about global trends; and Wendell Loewen, Faith Front director and Tabor College faculty member, outlining church trends.

Fresno Pacific University President André Stephens and Tabor College President David Janzen also spoke and participated in a question-and-answer session moderated by Morris. Questions were pointed and, at times, confrontational.

The final session, moderated by USMB Leadership Board secretary Dave Thiessen, pastor at Mountain View Church, Fresno, Calif., was a brainstorming session. Participants offered more than a dozen suggestions for next steps. One idea that more than one attendee listed was to meet again this summer or in early 2025 and invite young leaders to attend.

The National Strategy Team (NST) planned the three-day event. In addition to Morris, Ringhofer, Rodriguez and Wiest, the National Strategy Team currently includes district ministers James Moore (Eastern), Aaron Hernandez (LAMB), and Brian Harris (Southern); and Jon Wiebe, MB Foundation president and CEO. Tim Sullivan, who retired as SDC minister Jan. 15, was also involved in planning and hosting the vision summit.

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