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Learning for a lifetime

Older and younger church members

Intergenerational events can grow faith in young and old alike. Linda Darrow shares a glimpse of this through her experiences at Mission u.

Site Coordinator, Mission u

Attending the School of Christian Mission as a young United Methodist woman almost 50 years ago, little did I realize that I would be transformed in my commitment to global ministry. At the time, it seemed like I would spend a couple of days studying the Scriptures and connecting them with current social issues, meet a few new people, sing a few songs, and come home.

But no. Sharing that time with women and men of all ages, along with their children and grandchildren, from across the conference would become a life-altering experience for me.

Now, I’m that older United Methodist woman who has attended at least one Mission u event (today’s School of Christian Mission) every year, taking my own children and then my grandchildren. Each year it continues to be a meaningful part of my ongoing educational and spiritual journey. Time spent with my many church friends and family members is truly special.

Mission u is kind of like Vacation Bible School for everyone. Sponsored by United Women in Faith, our “school” has always encouraged people of all ages—women, men, youth, and children—to attend. It’s a beautiful way to get to know other Christian brothers and sisters from around our districts and conference. It’s also a great way to get to know our local pastors, and even our bishop when he can visit, more personally. Mission u feels like a big family event as we study God’s Word, sing, pray, cry, and laugh together!

Bishop Bard and youth eating lunch at Mission u
Bishop Bard was the Bible study leader at a recent Mission u event. The youth loved the opportunity to have lunch with him and get to know him better. ~ photo courtesy Linda Darrow

Looking back, I don’t remember the first time I attended Mission u events. I am not sure why I would have even thought to attend. But later, as a young woman with young children, I became a leader at the district level with United Methodist Women and started attending more regularly. Then as now, the expectation is to learn all you can and then take those learnings back to your local church and share it with as many people as possible. Study moves you to action.

Easier said than done, right? This gave attending Mission u a missional purpose.

Children and youth are always welcome. One year it was held at Ferris State University in Big Rapids at their conference center, which had everything we needed in one facility, including a pool. This was a great incentive to bring our kids, which I did. Sometimes it was hard to get to our classes because the kids wanted to spend all their time in the pool. Moms started taking turns; some went to class, and others stayed to supervise the swimmers!

My sons have been involved with Mission u over the years. Then, before the pandemic, two of my grandchildren attended for ten years. Mission u was always a highlight of their summer and became a special time for us to spend together. They made some lasting friendships over the years and did not understand why they couldn’t go earlier and stay longer and be together 24-7!

By the way, children and youth attend Mission u for free, and there will be lots of activities for them based on our study theme focusing on the heart of Jesus’ good news in the Gospels. Read this earlier article to learn how children and youth grow in faith at Mission u.

Every year, the study topics are expertly designed and relevant to our lives today. The study leaders, often our loving pastors, are always so prepared. And the time spent with other United Methodists is always meaningful, whether we are having conversations about our studies, singing and worshiping God together, or just having fun and chatting at mealtime.

One highlight from recent years is when Bishop David Bard was our main study leader. We all were blessed with his presence, especially the time he spent with our youth. What a great time they had sitting together at lunch with the bishop!

In addition to the specific study topics, there is time for other activities—book reviews, hearing updates from missionaries who are retired or home on leave, getting updates on other relevant topics, or experiencing hands-on projects or crafts. Whatever activity I am involved with at the time is the one I enjoy the most! The whole experience is always so joyous.

Again, one of the most meaningful parts of attending Mission u is the chance to share matters of faith with people of all generations. All are welcome, and you don’t have to be United Methodist! People of all expressions of Christian faith can come to Mission u.

So, will you join me at Mission u, July 13-15, 2023, at First United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant? Click here to learn more. June 15 is the deadline for early-bird registration.

Mission u will transform your life, as it has done for me and my children and grandchildren. It’s a blessing to study God’s Word with others and let it move you into the world.

Last Updated on June 8, 2023

The Michigan Conference