August 18, 2023
If YOUTH 2023 illustrated anything to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) staff taking part, it was that the future looks brighter than a lot of people may realize.
With teenagers from all over the world converging on the Daytona Beach (Fla.) Ocean Center from July 25-28, YOUTH 2023 provided a prime opportunity for GBHEM staffers to meet with the church’s future leaders at the board’s booth. It also gave staff members a chance to show attendees the unique benefits GBHEM has to offer—highlighted by the $1,000 college scholarships won by three lucky contest winners.
Among the many workshop opportunities available to attendees was a talk by GBHEM Director of Conference Relations Amie Stewart, called, “Left on Read: How to Respond to God’s Call.” The workshop focused on, among other topics, the role of prayer in pursuing a call to ministry and ways to serve within and beyond the church.
“It was a really inspiring experience,” Stewart said of the conference as a whole. “From an exhibitor’s perspective, I loved all the representatives across the connection and the creativity to connect with young people.
“Many young people stopped to ask about what they needed to be doing now to prepare for the future.. Even a 4th-grader came by to ask about scholarships for the future! There was a lot of clarity around where they wanted to go and what they wanted to study when it came to higher education opportunities.”
Rev. Dr. Trip Lowery was encouraged by the feedback from his talk, “Everyone Belongs. Everyone Benefits.” Rev. Dr. Lowery, GBHEM’s Associate General Secretary of Theological Education and Clergy Formation, said he was surprised to discover, “Students are still trying to figure out how to understand the diversity of call within a system that doesn’t communicate there is space for them.”
“There are adults excited about mentoring and guiding youth” Rev. Dr. Lowery said when asked what gave him hope at the conference. “There are youth still interested in being mentored and guided. They have questions about the church, but they have not given up on the church yet.”
Marcie Bigord, Director of Scholarships, walked away from YOUTH 2023 with plenty of reasons for hope, as well. Not least of those was the standing-room-only ice cream social that she hosted, where high school juniors and seniors learned about GBHEM scholarships and resources to help them discern their calling in life.
“The energy this event brings inspires our work, the youth are what will carry the next generation in the pathway of the church and the mission overall,” Bigord said. “The dedication to the church was seen throughout the event.” To see daily recaps from YOUTH 2023, visit https://www.umcyoungpeople.org/lead/youth-2023-daily-recap-videos.