Conference introducing new leadership model for youth

David Burke


A new model for youth leadership in the Great Plains Conference is being launched this year. 

Leadership Lab is a successor to the Conference Council on Youth Ministries, which included representatives from each district in the conference. The Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford, intergenerational discipleship coordinator, said that between graduations, the pandemic and a lack of recruitment for CCYM, only four students were active at the conference level. 

“Over the past three years, we’ve seen a shift in what youth ministry looks like at the conference level across all conferences. With the pandemic, a recruitment pipeline to CCYM through events has been broken,” she said. “We’re reimagining the revisioning the Conference Council on Youth Ministries.” 

Through Leadership Lab, high school students who are active members of their United Methodist Church must be sponsored by a mentor in their church, and commit to 10 quests, or topics, to complete the curriculum. 

Gepford said the curriculum is based on the conference’s mission of “Great churches. Great leaders. Great disciples. Transformed world.” 

“We’ve identified some things that make great leaders and great disciples,” she said. “They’ll have an opportunity to go deeper into those characteristics.” 

Gepford said Leadership Lab is a “decentralized model” that will be more of a local training and self-guided. Youth will be able to get together in regions of their state for fellowship. 

The goal of the quests, she said, would be for the students to “learn something, experience something, lead something.” 

Students who complete 10 quests will be eligible for a trip to the Holy Land, scheduled for the winter break of 2024-25, she added. Funding for the trip, she said, may come from the individual or their home church or community, with the possibility of a stipend from the conference. 

Some of the learning components of Leadership Lab will be hosted on a new e-learning platform to be introduced to the conference later this month. 

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at

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