Mennonite Church USA redesigns youth leader webpage

New features include Bible studies and book recommendations

By Hilary J. Scarsella

ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA)— A collection of 117 Bible studies written by college students for use by high school youth groups is one of several new features of Mennonite Church USA’s revamped youth leaders webpage.

Between 2004 and 2009, Michele Hershberger, a Bible and Ministry faculty member at Hesston (Kan.) College, engaged students in her Christian Education and Intro to Youth Ministry classes in writing the Bible studies. Hershberger, colleague Carol Duerksen, and students from LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania, where Hershberger taught in 2009, also contributed to the collection.

“I wanted my students to have a real-life application to the work they were doing at Hesston College, and they ate it up,” says Hershberger. “They did excellent work, knowing it was going out to real people and would be used in real situations. I was impressed by their research and creativity.”

Originally, the Bible studies were made available through Hesston College’s website under the project name YMRoadTrip.org.

“Though the Bible studies were being used and accessed regularly, the college wanted to find a way for them to have broader visibility and usage among youth pastors and workers,” says Marathana Prothro, director of marketing and communications for the college. “A recent redesign of both the Hesston College and Mennonite Church USA websites created an opportunity for partnership in making this resource more visible on a churchwide level.”

Kent Miller, denominational youth minister for Mennonite Church USA, was excited to provide the collection with a new home on the Mennonite Church USA webpage for youth ministry.

“We’ve created a whole new youth leader section that is accessible from our homepage [www.mennoniteusa.org],” says Miller. “The centerpiece is Hesston’s collection of Bible studies. We reformatted them to make them searchable and expect that they will be an excellent resource for youth leaders across the denomination who are looking for relevant Bible studies rooted in the Anabaptist tradition.”

Users of the site can also submit their own Bible studies for consideration for the collection via a link on the Bible studies page.

“This is a wonderful sharing database that we want to build and grow,” explains Miller.

Other features of the revamped webpage include information about peace curriculum resources for youth groups; lists of conference youth ministry websites, Mennonite colleges and service opportunities; Scriptures/resources pertaining to selected social justice issues; a blog; and a link to a Facebook group for those who work with youth.

Also available is a list of current youth ministry book recommendations for leaders that was compiled by members of the Youth Ministry Council, an annual gathering of Mennonite Church USA conference youth ministers/representatives, agency representatives, college professors and denominational staff.

“The idea is that this is a place where people can go to check up on the latest conversations in youth ministry,” says Miller.

The remodeled webpage is one manifestation of the Youth Ministry Council’s commitment to support, encourage and resource those engaged in youth ministry across the nation, he says.

“We are a diverse denomination,” he notes,” and we want to support and bring together all branches of the church.”

Staff transition

Miller will continue in his role as denominational youth minister until July 28, 2013, at which time he will transition into full-time ministry as pastoral team leader for First Mennonite Church of Middlebury (Ind.).

“While I’m excited about this new chapter, there is a lot of mourning that happens in transition, because it has been a wonderful blessing to be a part of denominational work with youth ministry and a joy to work with the staff at Mennonite Church USA,” he says. “I’m glad to know that the church is in good hands and that many are caring for it in wonderful ways.”

Terry Shue, director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA, says, “Kent seemed to be specifically gifted by God for his role in denominational youth ministry because of his unique ability to work within the large network of relationships he has developed.

“Being engaged in so many parts of the church served his ability to listen to the church broadly when it came to youth and young adult ministries. This will also serve him well in his new pastoral role.”

The denominational youth minister position description can be accessed at http://www.mennoniteusa.org/about/jobs/.

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