Middle school, high school, and college students from communities around the Indiana Conference gathered at Epworth Forest Conference Center, August 3, for the 2019 Back to School Rally, an event organized by INUMC Emerging Leaders. The rally is designed to give life to the idea that leaders come in various age groups and from all walks of life and faith. This year’s rally focused on teaching students why it’s important to remain “rooted” in their faith, particularly as they face potential challenges during the new school year.

But to remain rooted, students must begin by building and strengthening their spiritual foundation. And that begins with creating sacred spaces and making time to be vulnerable and in connection with God. Students gathered in the newly-constructed Buck Lodge to learn how to start that connection.

“Your relationship with God has to be the first thing,” preached University of Indianapolis senior and guest speaker, Jamarcus Walker. “It has to be the best thing. Don’t just pray when you need God. Grow your relationship with God.”

Students also heard a message from Wesley Seminary Counselor Stephanie Riebe. “When we become rooted and established in our faith, change starts to happen.”

But the rally was not just about building a relationship with Christ but also being in healthy, constructive relationships with one another. And what better way to achieve that than by bonding with new friends and seeing old friends in a new light.

Young people were able to take time to get to know their peers by playing games in the lake behind the lodge, eating lunch and enjoying ice cream in the beach house and waterfront, climbing trees, playing basketball, and engaging in the “Escape Camp” challenge, a large-scale “Escape Room” activity where students had to rely on the strengths of their team as well as progressive communication to accomplish their goal.

Emily Krach, Associate Director of Leadership Development – Emerging Leaders, shared, “The hope of the Emerging Leaders team is that students will respond to the idea of being rooted in their faith as they head back to school, that they will know that God will give them strength as they face daily pressures.”

Stephanie Riebe shares a message with students at Buck Lodge, Students Encouraged to Stay Rooted During Back to School Rally

Emerging Leaders of the Indiana Conference continue to provide opportunities to encourage churches to bring young voices to the forefront. Their latest challenge calls for adults in the Conference to be intentional and receptive during their conversations with young people around their community. During her address, Emerging Leader Molly Bickle invited United Methodists to take part in the Young Voices Challenge and receive the charge of making the thoughts and insights of young people a priority and norm in the life our church and mission.

“There’s a reason the Bible puts such an emphasis on childlike faith,” Molly said in her message. “Because we need to be listening to, supporting, and encouraging our young people, our children, and our youth, like everyone else.”

She added, “Just like God uses every gender and race, and in every socio-economic situation, He also uses every age.”