July 29, 2014
We’ve never done it that way before.
Those words are not usually voiced by young women in the church. They don’t have enough experience to know yet what can’t be done because it hasn't been done before. Their fears are pretty basic – fear of speaking in public or singing a solo, or looking foolish – and sometimes, fear of the unknown. A couple of weeks ago at Grove City College, 18 young women took a risk; they came to an event not knowing exactly what was going to happen. Because they’d never done anything like this before, the planners were not sure if young women would come, or if they came, if they would be receptive to what was offered. They came! They participated. They provided feed-back that encouraged organizing more projects and events for young women.
Participants represented 16 different churches and 8 of the 10 districts in the WPA Annual Conference. Two were not United Methodist; one young woman came from the Philadelphia area. Ranging in age from 14 to 23, they lived together, participated in workshops focusing on serious issues (Spirituality and Mission, Poverty, and Human Trafficking), spent time doing hands-on mission work, worshiped, sang, played, and bonded.
The planning committee of five young women (Bethany Bloise, Devan Jewett, Jane Larson, Abby Meyer, and Denise Nicole Stone) had been meeting together since last year – working out the details of the event they were calling “Unstoppable – Learning the issues, Finding your voice, Changing the world.” Their hard work paid off.
As their mentor for unstoppable, I’ll use this forum to reflect and share information, hoping to set the stage for future projects and events so more young women will take the risk and join this unstoppable force in the future. “Mentor Diaries” is a take-off on Princess Diaries 2 (the movie the planning committee decided to show the first night) and my role as mentor. As I share details of the unstoppable event in this and future blogs, maybe others will feel called to become mentors of young women in their UMW units, and young adults in their churches.
When building relationships, the planning committee realized that having fun together was an important part of the mix. So, they included times for ice breakers and games, a fun movie, snacks of ice cream sundaes, and times to “chill” with new friends or by themselves. They got to know each other in safe settings that allowed movement into serious topics and discussions. They encouraged listening, discussing, and respecting one another.
Their choice of Princess Diaries 2 was inspired. I’m a pretty serious person, sometimes neglecting to include the fun stuff. I watched one of the participants voicing every line of every character in the movie, with appropriate facial inflections. Obviously, this was a movie that many of them had seen before and all seemed to enjoy. Questions asked the next morning included: