Youth were given a unique opportunity to learn from denominational leaders at the 2009 General Assembly. Thirty youth participated in the “Shadow a Disciples Leader” program that paired young people and leaders with similar interests. Olivia Bryan Updegrove, a minister at First Christian Church of Orange, CA, organized the program.
Adonna Bowman, the executive director of the Office of Disciples Women, was shadowed by Hayley Ellis, a member of the Youth Leadership Team in the Pacific Southwest Region. Bowman believes in the importance of getting people involved in a young age, especially women. “It’s empowering for young women to see and experience the wisdom, commitment, and passion of the women in the church,” she said.
Bowman and Ellis attended the Women’s Luncheon together. With over 630 women in attendance, it was one of the largest meal at the assembly.
Evidence of the shadowing program was seen around General Assembly, although it wasn’t overtly obvious. Vice Moderator Robert Alvarez was shadowed by Christian Smith, a member of the General Youth Council. Smith had the opportunity to participate in worship on Friday evening when he helped give the invitation to offering along with Alvarez.
Amy Gopp, director of Week of Compassion, was shadowed by Rebecca Parker, a member of the Youth Executive Council in the Kentucky Region. Parker spoke highly of her experience with the program. She and Gopp had set aside a couple hours to spend together, but time flew by and they ended up being together longer than planned.
“It really inspired me,” Parker said of the experience. While it’s easy to get caught in the mindset of being powerless as a young person, Parker said spending time with Gopp reminded her that she’s not. “I can be a part of the church, I am important, I can lead,” Parker said.
Gopp had equally positive things to say about her shadow. “It was amazing, she was amazing! I wanted to shadow her after she shadowed me!” Amy glowed.
The program was sponsored by Higher Education and Leadership Ministries. More information about HELM can be found on their website www.helmdisciples.org.