UNLEASHED College Style
Sky Ranch provided the backdrop to this year’s Wesley Foundation All Campus retreat where students experienced the UNLEASHED Curriculum and discussion groups designed to propel passions and momentum for relevant ministry moments.
Be fearless. Show courage. Be curious. Those are the messages heard by 250 UMC college students discerning God's call on their lives, wrestling with challenging questions while following Jesus, and learning to live courageously in Christian community. Launched several years ago as Laity Unleashed, the goal of the modified UNLEASHED curriculum is to move the layperson or student beyond the structure of the church and encourage each one to take God’s love boldly into the world. This leadership development program explores God's call into areas that are not always official "ministry" or ordination.
The students gathered for the first UNLEASHED all-campus retreat at Sky Ranch February 17-19, representing 15 campuses in the Texas and Central Texas Conferences, including Kilgore, Prairie View A&M, Sam Houston State, Lamar, SFA, Texas A&M, Tyler Jr. College, UT Tyler, Texas Southern, Univ. of Houston, Navarro College, Tarleton, UT Arlington, Weatherford, Baylor and Texas Christian.
The TAC’s UNLEASHED program leaders presented the curriculum for the weekend. Students explored the strengths identified by their Strengths Quest assessment with Allison Hicks, an UNLEASHED grad, and heard about Biblical “call dodgers” and a personal call journey from another UNLEASHED grad, Kelley Burd-Huss.
During the weekend, Reverends Lance Richards and Hannah Terry led sessions on “Seeing God at Work or What Breaks Your Heart” and “We Answer.” Deeper exploration came in break-out sessions such as “Text Messages and Burning Bushes,” “Walking with Suffering Neighbors,” “Giving Your Passion a Purpose,” and “But God, It’s Hard.”
Students answered the “Who is Suffering?” question by identifying those who are lonely or abused, don’t have their physical needs met, don’t feel valued or can’t speak for themselves. In a small group setting the young adults talked about the passions shaping their youth, how teenage girls can best embrace their uniqueness, and how to reducing loneliness and hate. One student shares, "I've been struggling with self-rejection for a while now, and it was good to be reminded that I am beloved." Another student shared a personal revelation. "Thank you for focusing on meditative prayer as a spiritual practice. Mindfulness didn't make sense to me until I put it in the context of my faith." Another student had an “aha” moment, noting, “I never thought about creating a plan for things I want to do. This is a great way to focus.”
Students reflected and responded. One student admits, "I needed confidence. I was wrestling with the question, 'Am I worthy of this calling?' It was a fear of failing which is now overcome."
Some students felt mobilized to be bolder. “Thank you for spending time with me, helping me discern my strengths and my call,” shares one of the participants. “We have a coffee house on my campus and I think now I will be able to stand up and share there about my calling.” One student was significantly encouraged and renewed by UNLEASHED, sharing, “This weekend reminds me why I need to be here.”
Informing others at Sam Houston University, Greg Oberg’s Facebook post states, “Another great retreat with 14 other Wesley Foundations from all over Texas is under our belts! Nineteen of us joined 230 others for worship, workshops, games, rest, food, and plenty of fun. Our awesome praise team led worship on Saturday morning, and two of our own were elected to serve as student reps on the Texas Conference Board of Campus Ministry. Our Wesley Bearkats participated well and did an amazing job at representing our crew!”
Speaker Kelley Burd-Huss summed up the weekend saying, “I was at a dinner table with some students and it was truly beautiful to see students deeply listening to each other and having difficult conversations around race, development, and Christian community. Closing worship was beautiful, and it will be one of the most memorable worship experiences for me for years to come. The Spirit was almost tangibly stirring in the room, and it was a joy to see students graciously receive permission to dream of God's call on their lives, and what the Kingdom might look like if we all lived into God's call, whether that be as laity or clergy.”
If you are interested in learning more about the powerful impact UNLEASHED could have on your life, please contact Ana in the Center for Missional Excellence via email@example.com.