Nebraska Wesleyan University discernment small group

Proposed and reported by H. Eduardo Bousson
Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Nebraska

Project Summary


Nebraska Wesleyan University has been incorporating for the last five years vocational discernment as part of its curricular and co-curricular culture. This has been done thanks to NetVUE, a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges. Although we had a rough start, now we can say that we have events that range from large gatherings, to small groups, to retreats that engage students in vocational discernment.
 
The Culture of Call grant empowered us to engage students who we identified as emerging church leaders. The purpose was to gather them together in small group discussion around religious vocation. They met weekly and engaged in discussion regarding vocation using Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak as well as the Great Plains Conference Five Cups of Coffee. They also heard from clergy and non-profit leaders in the community regarding their vocational experience. At the end of their programmed time they decided to keep meeting. All in all, they met for 10 weeks.
 
Originally, we had identified 10 students who shared they would be interested in meeting with this group. On a regular basis, 7 gathered in attendance. Part of the grant we set aside to send some of the students to Exploration '17 in Portland in November 2017. That part of the program has not been fulfilled at the time of this writing. We are planning on continuing the group this semester with a public invitation to those who would like to join. The group is open to students of all religious traditions.
 
Our expectation for this project was to create a safe space where students could discern their call. What surprised me the most was that it also served as a support group. Many of these students had not shared their vocational leanings with anyone before. Even when they are more spiritually mature than their peers, they may have felt a type of caution when speaking about their faith and vocation with others. This project empowered them to embrace their faith and their calling to the point of being more open with others about it.
 
We told the story as much as we thought we should. We saw this first iteration as a trial run. We officially shared with our partners on campus who are doing other vocational events as well as members of the administration. We expect to be more public in our sharing this year.
 
We understand this project was mostly a discernment event, though their contact with members of the community initiated them in identifying their gifts. (There was a student that began their time stating she wanted to be a youth pastor but after their time is set on congregational ministry). We also met with each student once in a mentoring session.  In this second go around we intend on developing a better mentoring aspect to the program as well as incorporating spiritual practices.

One of the things that we found to be the most successful was to make this group student led. We would coach the two student leaders before every meeting and they would be the ones leading the discussion. It first started out of necessity, but it became a liberating experience for the students. The drawback was that at some meetings they did not go over the planned topic, but it was in those cases that the group became a support group and where those more advanced in their vocational discernment were able to exercise their leadership skills by mentoring those who were in the beginning stages.
 
I deeply appreciate the Great Plains Annual Conference for its vision to invest in the next generation of Christian leaders in the Great Plains and beyond. Grants like this help us to imagine past what we can currently do to foster great leaders and great churches for a transformed world.
 
In Christ,
 
Rev. H. Eduardo Bousson
University Minister
Nebraska Wesleyan University
 

Final Report Survey

Which of the 5 Culture of Call earmarks did your project include:
Discernment events/experiences
Personal Exploration
Mentoring

How did you use the funds?
We used the funds for materials, honorariums, food, and used the remainder to help send students to Exploration '17.

Will the project that you undertook be continued?  How?
Yes, this year we will make an open appeal to students who may want to join.

How did this project cultivate a culture of call in your church or district?
It fills the gap for students who are exploring religious vocation on campus.

Who was the primary audience of your project?
Young adults.

You can contact Eduardo via e-mail at ebousson@greatplainsumc.org or  ebousson@nebrwesleyan.edu