For something barely a month old, the Mentors in Training Team (MITT) is growing legs –– at least 14 pair so far.
A hands-on opportunity for adults ages 19 and 20 to gain leadership, mentoring and faith-nurturing experience, MITT was unveiled this week at United Church of Christ’s National Youth Event on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
Led by the Rev. Shaun Drefahl, pastor of Bainbridge (Ohio) Community UCC, 14 young adults from Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are emerging as potential lay leaders of the church.
"There is such of a seed of awesome here," said Drefahl, a Milwaukee native. "I told them, 'If we have you 14 running the next NYE, this is going to be incredible and going to catch fire.'"
The program is designed for young adults who wish to network with others in this age group; engage in out-of-the-box ministry; experiment with creative/fine arts; and find a centering and safe space to explore theology and engage social issues.
Drefahl's involvement in MITT stems from his friendship with Waltrina Middleton, a fellow graduate of UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary and the UCC's co-convener of NYE 2012.
"She talked about MITT right away, and asked me if I could take this on," Drefahl said.
Said Middleton, "We realize this is a critical stage for young adults post-graduation to remain connected with their respective faith communities."
Helping to organize a service project July 11, the group held a spirited meeting the next day to discuss the ways in which they could best make a difference to younger people.
"There seemed to be a gap between being actively involved as youth and being a chaperone –– an open opportunity where we could be better prepared in that transition to become a leader," said Damon Holst, a sophomore and one of five students from Elmhurst College taking part in the workshop. "And the college age seems to be a good time to do that."
Holst said his participation in a regional youth event at Defiance (Ohio) College two years ago helped form the basis in his interest in MITT.
Drefahl is hopeful of keep momentum going so that "maybe we’ll have a seedling by Synod next year [in Long Beach, Calif.]."
"It is a seed right now," said Drefahl. "It would be great to be planting a seedling instead of a seed. But planting a seed is better than not planting it. The real seed is going to be the folks following up on this."
Added Holst, "This gives us a chance to learn to be able to take the small steps in helping out with the larger things in the future."