INUMC Emerging Leaders hosted the Back to School Rally (B2S) at Epworth Forest Conference Center in North Webster, Indiana, on August 4, 2018. Students from middle school to college, from across Indiana, were invited to take part in a day layered with activities to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they may encounter in the new school year. Bishop Trimble and the Extended Cabinet of the Indiana Conference carved out time from their professional development retreat, to engage with students, emerging leaders, and Conference staff while taking in the sights Epworth Forest campgrounds are so notably known for.
Students were fully engaged in workshops covering a broad range of topics; from learning how to deal with making new friends and handling toxic relationships, to navigating social media while balancing a cumbersome school schedule. Workshops were led by members of the Emerging Leaders team and emphasized conversation points relatable for students across age groups. Members of the Extended Cabinet were also part of the learning and sharing.
Each workshop was offered twice to allow students the opportunity to attend more than one learning engagement. The Rally was structured with the intent to provide a relaxing environment where students could have ownership of the day’s schedule. Students were given the freedom to focus on the activities and workshops that were of interest to them. During the times when they were not engaging and learning, they were free to lounge in the Bishop Mike and Marsha Discipleship Center, go kayaking, rock-climbing, try their hands at archery, and/or challenge their peers in a round of table tennis or arcade basketball.
Emerging Leaders created space for more intentional learning, reflecting, personal discernment and introspection, as well as group activities, during the afternoon worship session in the auditorium of the Discipleship Center. Several leaders shared about their personal life experiences, as well as struggles, in school, life, and ministry, that have impacted them deeply. Many of the Emerging Leaders are students themselves, so they were gifted in being able to draw a connection to the students, as they spoke about having to work through the loss of a loved one, self-doubt as well as dealing with doubt in their faith, how Christ found them, the driving forces behind their faith, and how they act out their faith as young people in their community. Students had also been given an opportunity to anonymously submit questions to the Emerging Leaders via texts through the Remind app. Students could ask questions on just about anything they wanted to talk about, and the Emerging Leaders gave their best effort to answer the questions in a panel discussion.
Bishop Trimble shared a special word with attendees, encouraging participants to celebrate their identity and uniqueness and to remain steadfast in their journey of discovering, accepting, and cherishing their true self. The bishop also noted that as many students have been promoted to a new grade this school year, they will be faced with the challenge of trying to belong and fit in, while navigating social constructs in a rapidly changing world.
“There’s a difference between belonging and fitting in. We try to fit in because it’s safe and may result in gaining more friends. But, true belonging is believing in yourself so deeply that you don’t have to pretend or lie about something you are not.”
The bishop continued,
"You are here because you belong to God and your church has demonstrated the capacity to build a community where you know that you belong. Authentic community is where you experience true belonging and it doesn’t require for you to change who you are.”
Emerging Leaders of the Indiana Conference is a ministry focused on equipping leaders from around the Conference with resources and tools as they “live out God’s mission in the Church and the world today and in the days to come.” To learn more about Emerging Leaders and how your church can be a ministry partner, visit inumc.org/emergingleaders.