I am writing this day-by-day account of the SLS18 conference for my daughter, Rachel.
This last day of conference for me, Friday, January 5, 2018, was about the mission. (I left a day early. Others stayed til noon on Saturday.) In order to truly explain the day, I have to explain the mission behind FOCUS.
The intent behind FOCUS is to train newly graduated college students on the ins and outs of evangelization, turning them into true missionaries because once trained, they are then sent to live on college campuses throughout the United States. While there, they commit, first and foremost, to a life of prayer and service. (Their first year also includes a dating fast.)
FOCUS missionaries spend time making authentic friendships with college students. They love and care for the students. Over time, they introduce the Gospel message of hope and healing. As two or three students respond, they build more intentionally into those students, deepening their understanding of and relationship with Jesus. Then they send THOSE students out to befriend other students with the intent to bring them to Christ.
When my daughter told me she wanted to become a missionary, I was excited. Why? Because I know that we only truly learn when we teach. Faith is strengthened when given to others.
I wrote more about her story in this post: Rachel Doerneman is a FOCUS Missionary!
As part of their efforts to bring college students together, FOCUS puts on a huge national conference every other year called SEEK. I went to SEEK 2015 literally by accident but it profoundly changed my life. You can read about that story in this post: Discovering Christ: The Prologue.
Two years ago, FOCUS decided to add a conference on the off year of FOCUS. They called it the Student Leadership Summit; I went to SLS18.
SLS is similar to SEEK but it is about leadership training, a deeper look into the mission, specially geared for the missionaries. Benefactors, those that help support the missionaries, were encouraged to go, too.
As a benefactor, I knew this would be a great conference but I didn’t expect to learn so many skills.
Isn’t that brilliant? I am taking real SKILLS back to my parish community.
What skills and why is this important?
The week was about effective evangelization. As a Christian, I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in The Holy Spirit. I believe in the Resurrection. I believe in life eternal. I believe.
So, if that’s truly true, then I must heed this command:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”
That’s my job. And if you are a Christian, it’s your job, too.
I want to take a moment and look at this.
Jesus could have snapped his finger and converted the whole world.
Instead, He chose a small group of men. He transformed them via a relationship with HIMSELF, where he invested deeply in them, sharing His very life with them.
When they received the gift of The Holy Spirit, they were absolutely transformed.
Then they went out and did the same thing, investing in a small group of people and teaching those people about the Message of Salvation.
You and I know about Jesus. Think about that. How do we know about him? Someone before us was evangelized. There are now billions of Christians on the earth.
Since that worked for the Master, that is the model that FOCUS uses.
Three transformed people, each building into three people with intention and purpose will create nine strong leaders, ready to go out and build into three more. Those nine then build into three each.
It’s called Spiritual Multiplication and it spectacular.
John Zimmer gave a presentation to us “lifelong missionaries” on Friday, the fourth day of the conference.
There were about one thousand of us in a room. He asked three people to go touch three people and have them stand up. Then he had those nine each go touch the lives of three people and asked them to stand up.
Within six “generations” the entire room was standing. It was stunning to see.
Now, I went to this conference knowing the mission of FOCUS for college students. What I didn’t expect is for it to become personal.
My small group leader, Jen Moser, of the Archdiocese of Omaha, made this little comment about parish Bible studies:
Most Bible studies and book studies at almost all parishes in our country (and the world) are about taking in information, learning about the book of John, studying the Acts of the Apostles, etc.
Year after year, the same people keep learning more information. They are perpetually in the “build” cycle.
What would happen if we CHANGED THE MODEL in our parishes?
Holy Hannah. I didn’t expect this new development, this invitation to shift gears.
They invited me to think about teaching teachers to teach others about Jesus, to intentionally build disciples that will knowingly turn and build into other disciples.
I talked it over with my husband Russ. He made the comment that we, the parish community, are pretty much already evangelized. Yes, we are. Especially those that experienced ChristLife.
Yet even with ChristLife, we got to the end of 21 weeks of training (very much build/win/send) and we just enjoyed the new friendships in our community.
The difference here is the INTENTION of reaching others in a more authentic, personal way.
To help wrap your mind around this, I will walk you through a real life example of this on my next post.
Finally, thank you for reading about SLS18 all week. If something was stirred within your soul, I invite you to prayerfully consider becoming a benefactor of FOCUS. Find a missionary. Support them monthly. Share in this Most Important Mission of helping college students find and keep and share their faith.
THEN you can join us at SLS20, two years from now. The experience will help you become who you truly are!