Vision Summit equips kingdom leaders

Mission agency's Midwest team multiplies missional leaders through annual conference

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Participants in the 2017 Vision Summit gather in a Connect Group to pray and process God's calling for their lives. Photo: Multiply

This November will mark the sixth iteration of the Vision Summit, a conference and retreat hosted by the Midwest Mobilization Team of Multiply since 2015, as part of their 2020 Movement. The vision for the 2020 Movement was one of raising up and sending out 20 missional leaders by the year 2020.

Stephen Humber and Bob Pankratz are two members of the team that conceived the idea for the weekend retreat. Humber defines missional leaders as “people who mobilize God’s people to join in the work that he’s doing; they’re multipliers.”

Both Humber and Pankratz emphasize the importance of letting each member of their mobilization team lean into their unique giftings in order to further their mission, a theme that carries over into the purpose of the Vision Summit as well. Humber describes himself as more task-oriented and refers to Pankratz as a more “visionary person.”

The Vision Summit was created to facilitate a time of discernment for anyone seeking to discover a deeper understanding of the work God has for them using their gifts.

“The purpose is to set aside some time to really focus on God, worshipping and praying, but doing it with other people,” Humber says. “In that setting, when we’re focused on God and listening, God has something to say.”

Humber says that while Multiply is a missions-focused organization, the summit isn’t limited to those who feel called to be a missionary or pastor.

“We’ve had high schoolers attend, and we’ve had people in their 50s, 60s and 70s attend,” Humber says. “There’s a whole spectrum of life experience and faith, but also where they are in terms of doing what they feel like they’ve been called to do.”

The weekend provides an excellent opportunity for participants to wrestle with God’s calling for their lives, while the team also steers away from being “overly directive toward next steps.”

Allie Pankratz attended the first Vision Summit held in 2015 at Oasis Ranch and Retreat Center in Plevna, Kansas. At the end of the weekend, she felt God calling her to trust him in a “season of unknowns.” Photo: Multiply

“It’s fun to get people together who have really diverse interests and callings and gifts and passions and then just see what a weekend of fanning that can look like,” Humber says.

While some participants have gone on to do local or international missions, others have felt callings to serve Christ through things like foster care or teaching.

Connecting leaders

The Vision Summit began as a four-day retreat that took place at Oasis Ranch and Retreat Center in Plevna, Kansas. It was held the same weekend as fall break at Tabor College in Hillsboro, as the mobilization team wanted to allow students the opportunity to participate.

Allie Pankratz was a Tabor student when she attended the first Summit in 2015.

“At this point I was seeking discernment and clarity on what God had for my future, so that was part of my decision to attend,” Pankratz says. “But I also really valued and appreciated the deep community and discipleship that MB Mission (now Multiply) provided, so I was excited but also a bit anxious to see what God would reveal that weekend.”

Though the format of the conference has changed slightly from year to year, each Summit has involved hearing testimonies from missionaries, both local and global, as well as time for prayer and silent retreat.

But a large part of what makes the Summit so valuable for participants is the chance to share, pray and process thoughts with other people in “connect groups.”

“What I remember most about that weekend is the conversations I was able to have with some amazing people,” Pankratz says. “After each session we would have time to process God’s Word and what he was laying on our hearts in our small groups. It was a safe place to share my struggles, victories, fears and passions and dive deeper into God’s heart for making the gospel known locally, nationally and globally.”

Pankratz says her time at the Summit left her with both clarity and questions; she felt God calling her to trust him in a “season of unknowns.”

Pankratz and her now husband Drew, who also attended the Summit in 2015, have been serving for the past four years at Greenhouse Community Church in Utah, in an area heavily populated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s been challenging, rewarding and everything in between, but we are so thankful God led us to where we are today,” Pankratz says.

Equipping workers

Bob Pankratz explains that a large part of the Summit revolves around equipping participants for doing God’s work by learning to listen for his voice.

“We always believe when we send teams out to the nations, if these teams are able to hear the voice of God, then they’re going to be OK,” Bob says. “They can listen to God and God will tell them what to do, and they just follow.”

The team does provide some resources and guidance for possible ways participants can explore living out the Great Commission after the Summit is over, such as contact information for local ministries and organizations, as well as information on Multiply’s short term missions opportunities.

“It would be really presumptuous of me to think I know what everybody should do with their life,” Humber says. “We’ll talk about missions, we’ll talk about the kingdom, we’ll talk about God’s heart for the nations, but I don’t know that God wants everybody in that room to go do that. But he does have something for them to do; that’s really worth the effort of drilling down on and taking chances, and taking steps.”

Vision Summit retreats include testimonies from missionaries, times of prayer, discussions in Connect Groups and opportunities for worship. Photo: Multiply

He adds that the relationships that develop during the Summit and continue afterward are often where they see fruit.

“Cool things can happen in a weekend, but really cool things happen in a year or two of continuous sitting down together and talking and praying and listening together,” Humber says.

2020 and beyond

Attendance at the Vision Summit has ranged from about 50 to 90 participants over the past five years. The team is excited this year to celebrate the first milestone of the 2020 Movement, as they have exceeded their goal of raising up 20 leaders by 2020.

“It’s really been amazing, beyond what any of us would have asked or imagined, just seeing the Spirit revealing things to people,” Bob says.

Bob’s wife Kelly, also a member of the Summit leadership team, keeps a running list of past participants and how they continue to pursue working for God’s kingdom.

This year’s Summit will be held Nov. 6-8 and will look quite a bit different than past years. In the interest of continuing with the idea of multiplying leaders, the team asked past participants to consider hosting a “hub” of six to eight people in their own location.

A primary hub with a limited number of attendees will be hosted at First Mennonite Brethren Church, Wichita, Kansas. The event will then be live streamed to the different smaller hubs.

“We sensed the Lord say, ‘You’re not able to accomplish what I want to accomplish through the Vision Summit by just meeting in one place. I want to multiply this beyond that,’” Bob says.

Hub leaders will be free to design activities around what will serve their group best in their context and using their giftings.

Humber says that although this year’s Summit wasn’t necessarily planned with COVID-19 considerations in mind, the more spread out format is an added benefit.

The mobilization team continues to dream about expanding their 2020 Movement vision in the future, says Bob. They are asking what it would look like to raise up not just individual leaders but also perhaps more training bases or hubs across the nation or the globe to continue their mission of multiplication.

Jessica Vix Allen
Jessica Vix Allen is a freelance writer living in Meade, Kansas. She and her husband, Joel, have one daughter.

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