NEXT to Feature TED-style Talks About Vocation

Date Posted: 10/10/2012

The launch team for NEXT – determined that the new event would be different from other United Methodist conferences – turned to the popular TED talks for inspiration. So instead of long speeches, participants at the conference will hear short, 12- to- 15 minute talks from young adults who are involved in creative ministry, interfaith work, church planting, micro loans for students who have a social justice project, and more.

“We wanted NEXT to be different in format, and we wanted creativity to be the foundation of the event,” said Beth Ludlum, director of Student Faith and Leadership Formation in the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Higher Education. Once the format of short talks to present creative ideas was determined, the Imagine What’s NEXT launch team invited people to apply to be speakers. TED talks began as a conference bringing people from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design together. Now TED is a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.”

Registration for Imagine What’s NEXT is open through Oct. 10. Register or learn more.

“Our speakers will each present one big, creative idea along with a specific way they have put that idea into action in their context. Students will be left with a charge of ‘What would this look like if you did something similar?’ ” Ludlum said.

Scheduled Nov. 9-11 in St. Louis, Mo., NEXT is a new United Methodist event that will challenge and inspire college students to consider and plan the next faithful steps for their vocations, their communities, the church, and the world.

Participants will hear a series of four speakers, then gather in small groups to consider the big ideas of the presentations and how they might adapt the work for their own situations.

The speakers are diverse: Ramy Farouk is a young adult in Cairo, Egypt, who is involved in local and global Christan student movements; a group of Florida International University students will discuss taking a creative stand for justice; and Erica Granados de la Rosa is a college student who uses spoken word art in spiritual activism.

Granados de la Rosa said her art does not originate from a hymnal or even from the Bible.

“I am a woman of color who does spoken word. I am armed with tears, pushed by anger, and sustained by faith and truth that teaches me that we are all connected. I speak my truth and in doing so I inspire others to do the same. I create spaces where vulnerability serves as a tool to raise collective consciousness, empowerment, and healing. Story telling through art is essential to the ethos of my ministry,” she said.

The Rev. Jason Mackay will use the example of the Perking Point, a coffeehouse ministry in a strip mall near Hershey, Pa., to talk about finding unconventional ministry in nontraditional spaces.

“We think of church as traditional churches in buildings, but it’s much more effective when it gets into our daily lives,” Mackay said. He said when he started the Perking Point, he thought the ministry would reach the unchurched.

“Instead, we’re reaching the de-churched – people who have given up on church but find this just different enough that they are willing to try it,” Mackay said. He will ask NEXT participants to think about where they don’t expect to see Jesus, and how they can help others to find and experience him there.

The conference includes some built-in time for “play” meant to further spark creativity, Ludlum said. On Saturday afternoon, participants will visit the City Museum, the St. Louis Zoo, or the Art Museum. “The hope is that time will open more doors and creative ideas.”

At the end of the conference, each student will be asked to write a pledge to themselves about what they will do with what they have learned. “In six months, we will mail them that letter as a reminder of their experience, ideas, and plans,” Ludlum said.

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*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.