We had a fantastic time getting our toes wet this last weekend. Jess and I along with Jericho a 2011-2012 HLI Alum whose home church is Duluth set up the booth and put the feelers out there.
Our main goal was to get the name out. It was a leaders conference, so a lot of pastors and leaders had heard inklings of HLI, but most had no idea what it actually was. We also wanted to get HLI on the radar of the local Duluth Vineyard. For an HLI site to be successful you must have the full support and service of the local church. The students that will be coming to Duluth must be fully embraced by not only the staff of the Duluth Vineyard, but by the community at large. It takes a village, as they say to nurture the future.
I think we for the most part accomplished the task. We had many awesome conversations, many Duluth Vineyard folks signing up as host homes asking how they can help, asking us what the program even is. We had people offering to pray for us and letting us know they would be praying for us as we are going through the developing stage and begin to implement. We even had a few students sign up as prospective students!
One great thing for me, was to see how much the regional and national leadership is backing HLI. Phil Strout the National Direct Elect was the speaker at the conference, it his daughter and son in law who started the Heroic Leadership Institute out in Lewiston Maine, at his church. As I got to watch Phil and his wife this weekend, and picked up a bit on their character, I was thinking he doesn’t strike me as someone who would waste time on an endeavor like HLI unless it met some practical needs in an extraordinary way. I think that is why he is very much behind HLI, but I wont put words in his mouth, you can ask him yourself sometime.
On top of that, I had about a dozen conversations with regional pastors and leaders. They all identified the needs that HLI is proposing to meet.
Eighteen to twenty-five is the age group that most frequently walks away from God. I mean come on, it makes sense. The challenges are fierce (if you’ve gone through them you don’t notice anymore how disruptive they are). You go from on course with family, friends, and community to get out into this big amazing world and sink or swim. It isn’t necessarily about how crazy, wonderful, or difficult the obstacles are (they never stop getting more crazy, wonderful and difficult) it actually comes down to what tools does this age group have to handle those obstacles? Usually eighteen to twenty-five is a crash course in… well just about everything you haven’t learned yet.
I think it is that that the leaders of the Vineyard are picking up on. We all have voices, narratives and world views vying for our attention, it is in this 18-25 age bracket (and older if you haven’t learned yet) that the rubber meets the road, have we taught these students how to filter, organize, and digest the plethora of information we face, with Jesus or will we offer pop psychology and consumerism to be their empty wells.
(And just in case we thought we were high and mighty, this is a question we will work on answering for the rest of our lives, it’s called a relationship with Jesus).