High school students inspired at Called retreat

Posted on April 10, 2017

Story by Rev. Eric Van Meter, DWU campus pastor

How do we know if God is calling? And how do we respond when God does?

These were the questions that guided the Called retreat March 31-April 1 at Storm Mountain Center. Seventeen youth and adults from the Prairie Hills District and Dakota Wesleyan University gathered to look at various aspects of calling, especially around vocational ministry.

“This was an important time to help high schoolers explore what God is calling them to do,” said Ariana Arampatzis, a senior at Dakota Wesleyan University and one of the facilitators at the retreat. “We’re helping these youth to discern a call to ministry to grow and develop a sense of place in the church.” Photo: L to R, Cody Warns, Ariane Arampatzis and Eric Van Meter put the music together.

Seven Dakotas youth attended the retreat. Each was identified by their pastor as someone who could wrestle with God’s call at an early age.

The retreat presented attendees with several ways in which United Methodists answer God’s call, including ordained ministry, licensed ministry, and lay involvement. District Superintendent Kevin Kloster and several members of the Prairie Hills District Committee on Ministry spent time with the group, sharing their stories and answering questions about ministry in the UMC.

Rev. Kloster sees retreats such as this as vital to the United Methodist Church, both present and future.

“The Called retreat was a great way for our youth to connect with others who are exploring their call and to learn more about ministry,” he said. “As the DS in the Prairie Hills I couldn’t be more ecstatic to see how God is raising up young people across the district.”

DWU students Arampatzis, Cody Warns, and Lily Jones planned and staffed the retreat. All three are also interns with the Elisha Project, sponsored by Dakotas UMC churches in conjunction with the Board of Ordained Ministry. Photo: The Called retreat group met in the scenic Gist Lodge, nestled into the eastern slope of Storm Mountain.

“The question of what God is calling us to do is huge for young people,” Jones said. “People always ask you what career you want, and sometimes pastors ask if you’ve ever thought about ministry. But the big question is, ‘What do you want your life to be about?’”

DWU Campus Pastor Eric Van Meter believes raising the question about calling is vital to the mission of the United Methodist Church. According to Van Meter, the task of this retreat was not to convince people to become pastors, but to validate vocational ministry as a career option.

“It’s God’s job to call leaders for the church, not ours,” Van Meter said. “But it is our job to keep asking the question of how God might be calling, and to walk alongside people as they live into that call.” Photo: Kevin Kloster snapped a selfie with the group.

Retreat leaders expressed hope for future Called events, both in Prairie Hills and other parts of the Dakotas. They share an optimism over how the seeds planted this weekend might grow, both for individuals and for the UMC.

“I simply can’t wait to see how God will be guiding these youth in the years to come,” Kloster said. “I’m super excited for them.”