A new generation of leaders: DiscoverU opens possibilities for young people & adults as well

By Joe Webb

Young people from across the Conference gathered in Charleston last week for DiscoverU, an initiative aimed at exposing young leaders to a variety of ways of answering God’s call.

The seven students, who included a high school senior, five college students, and a beginning graduate student, spent the week shadowing elders, deacons, and laity in various ministry settings both inside and outside the church. The experience was designed to help the participants in their own discernment processes.

Rev. Shea James, Director of Young Disciples and Outdoor Ministries, said the students were surprised at the range of possibilities for ministry, both vocational and non-vocational. “They heard a wide range of call stories from their guides,” Shea related. “Some of them had their eyes opened to some new ideas for ministry they hadn’t considered before.”

Shea added that part of what made the week so special was the way the students bonded quickly and deeply. “They just really grew very close right from the beginning,” she said, noting that the group set a record at a local escape room on their first night together. “That kind of rapid team building just leads to a lot of trust in the community, which reinforces the kind of atmosphere you need for deep discernment.”

The students who participated were Gavin Brandenburg, Heather Barker, Matt May, Erin Sears, Lauren Shanholtzer, Amanda Webb, and Alyssa Wilson.

The program didn’t just impact the students. The people they shadowed may have learned just as much. “They were so excited when they dropped their students off every evening,” Shea said. “They were just blown away by how mature they are and how committed they are.” She added that the students expressed appreciation for how honest the guides were with them. “It really meant a lot that the folks they were shadowing didn’t sugar coat things. They opened up and shared the struggles of ministry as well as the rewards. That meant a lot to our participants.”\

Serving as guides were JF Lacaria, Jeff Taylor, Kim Matthews, Miranda Nabors, Krysta Rexrode Wolfe, Craig Hinchman, Michael Atkinson, Teresa Markins, Erin Daniels, David Donathan, and Shea James. Participants also heard personal experiences of calling from Martha Hill, Mark Stotler, Bonnie MacDonald, Jonathan and Jenna Moon, and Bishop Sandra and Barry Steiner Ball.

DiscoverU grew out of conversations with young leaders in the conference over the last couple of years and was largely designed by youth and young adults, James noted. Funding came through a grant from the United Methodist Young Clergy Initiative.

If you know of a young person who is discerning God’s call please have them contact James by emailing sjame@wvumc.org or calling 304-344-8331 x25 for information about DiscoverU 2019!