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Young leaders ‘Called to Serve, Willing to Stand’ for annual 360 Leadership Conference

Trinity CommunicationsMay 01, 2017

Originally written by Nathan DeTemple and Rebecca Thomas, Digest staff writers.

Trinity’s Emerging Leaders (EL) hosted the sixth annual 360 Leadership Conference on April 21 and 22, welcoming 130 high school students onto campus to “engage with each other as they learn about leadership and their relationships with God.”

Youth groups and individual students came from across the region to gather together, deepen their relationship with God, learn what it means to be a leader, and look at potentially being a part of Trinity’s EL program as an incoming student.

Each year the 360 Leadership Conference has a different message. The main theme, titled “Called to Serve, Willing to Stand,” focused on John 5:5–15. Each of the three main sessions emphasized one of Jesus’ commands to “Get up, take your bed, and walk.” The ultimate question the young leaders were encouraged to answer was, “what are you willing to stand for?”

Current Trinity freshmen in the EL program plan the 360 Leadership Conference. Planning is nearly a year-round process, with duties ranging from coordinating main speakers to recruiting students to attend the conference to planning fun activities and workshops.

“I am always excited to see how the conference is going to change and grow,” sophomore and EL coach Spencer Mowbray said. “Every year the conference is run by a different group of students, so it looks different. It has grown so much since the first conference I attended in high school, and I know that it will continue to grow into something better every year.”

Students arrived on campus April 21, kicking off the weekend with dinner and the first of the three main sessions in Melton Hall.

Clary Butler, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church and director of ministries for young adults, was the main speaker, leading both Friday night and Saturday afternoon. His associate at Willow Creek, Ashlee Eiland, also a youth pastor with Student Impact’s Community Life team, spoke in the first Saturday session.

Immediately following Butler’s Friday session, students broke off into huddles to discuss what they had learned. During this time, students personally applied material from the session and connected with other students. Youth group leaders and current Trinity students led these huddles.

Both flanking walls of Melton Hall bore massive paper posters, where students could write prayer requests and causes that inspired them. Responses included everything from unborn children, inner-city youth, and nature conservation.

“I believe the tone of the first session was set by the energy of the conference attendees,” Butler said. “They were very enthusiastic! That made a huge difference.”

Friday Night Frenzy went into full effect in and around the Waybright Student Center that evening. Students played gaga ball, nine square, glow-in-the-dark ultimate frisbee, and were given a hangout space.

The evening was capped off in a coffeehouse featuring live music emceed by Trinity juniors Katrina McElvain and Emma Boesch.

Conference attendees then spent the night in Trinity dorms, hosted by current students.

Saturday was punctuated by three periods of workshops scheduled throughout the day in the McLennan Academic building. The most popular workshop featured a talk by Josh Peterson on leading with trust. Other speakers included TEDS faculty member John Woodbridge and Trinity men’s and women’s soccer coach Patrick Gilliam.

The conference wrapped up with “Art from the Heart,” an immersive experience into the situation of poverty and prostitution in India and the stand the organization CAUSEGEAR is making there. Students migrated across campus to the Meyer Sports Complex for their free CAUSEGEAR bag, which they could decorate themselves, and a meal from Chick-fil-A.

Emerging Leader and freshman Joy Young was excited to see the success of the EL program’s conference recruiting strategy. In particular, Young mentioned the 15 students who came to the conference this year from Sign of the Dove Church in Waukegan, Ill., where she was a part of a recruiting presentation that took place there.

Social media was an integral part of EL publicity this year, with Snapchat stories, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram photos serving to get prospective attendees excited about the conference. Snapchat coordinator Todd Rhines said the use of Snapchat for EL was new this year.

“For a conference like this to go well is really a testament to these guys [the EL leaders],” Director of Student Leadership and Formation Scott Samuelson said. “Not just their organizational abilities, but their tenaciousness, their eyes to see what needs to be done, and also the eyes they have to connect with the students who came.”