Youth Ministry Council: Our hearts were burning within us

Kim Litwiller is Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference
Kim Litwiller is Associate Conference Minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference

By Kim Litwiller

I was blessed to gather with a variety of individuals who work in youth ministry throughout Mennonite Church USA in Kansas City, May 12-15 for Youth Ministry Council.  Youth Ministry Council (YMC) exists to build connections, resource, equip and allow for dreams regarding youth ministry in Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) to be discussed.

This year, YMC was opened to anyone who works with youth throughout MC USA: youth sponsors, youth pastors, youth leaders, etc…  In the past, YMC has been reserved for conference youth workers, and MC USA agency representatives.  The enlarged group this year made for a rich gathering and lively discussion.

Those gathered had the privilege of becoming more acquainted with Rachel S. Gerber, Denominational Minister of Youth and Young Adults for Mennonite Church USA.  Rachel, along with Jen Shenk, led us in meaningful worship each morning that replenished our souls, renewed our passion for youth ministry, and allowed us to reconnect with the One who has called each of us by name. The Road to Emmaus, served as our passage of focus, as well as our purpose for gathering in Kansas City in 2015.  Luke 24: 14 “…as they walked along, they talked about all that had happened.”

As we worshipped together, ate together, laughed together, cried together, and talked about all that had taken place within our individual ministries this past year—Jesus showed up!  Luke 24:15 “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…”

As stories were shared, dreams were unveiled, and discouragement acknowledged within the sacred space of this gathering—Christ’s presence was experienced.   Something holy happened as encouragement was offered, burdens were shared, and joys were celebrated alongside those who “get” youth ministry, and the beautiful mess it is.

Michelle Hershberger, professor at Hesston College, facilitates conversation at Youth Ministry Council in Kansas City
Michelle Hershberger, professor at Hesston College, facilitates conversation at Youth Ministry Council in Kansas City

Discussions took place surrounding the many ways youth ministry has changed throughout the years, and the challenges these changes have brought with them.  Michelle Hershberger, Hesston College, guided our resourcing and equipping sessions.  Fellow YMC attendees led open space discussions where connections were established around a specific topic of focus.   MC USA agencies shared with us the many ways they are seeking to resource and equip those who work with youth, as well as provide opportunities for youth to live out their faith.

Glen Guyton and Scott Hartman of the Convention Planning Team, gave an update on the 2015 MC USA convention, and took us on a tour of the convention center.  A variety of evening activities allowed us to discover why Kansas City is known as, “The Paris of the Midwest.” And lasting friendships were established as we met each other on the journey, and discovered our hearts were all burning with the same passion.

For those of you who share a passion for ministering to youth, I would encourage you to attend Youth Ministry Council next year.  I’m confident you’ll find yourself blessed by this gathering that seeks to offer encouragement, resourcing and equipping to those who have been called to minister to youth across Mennonite Church USA.