Last year Angela and I were enjoying some downtime in Orlando Florida. The hotel we were staying at was also hosting a student leadership conference hosted by Student Leadership University. We had the chance to speak to the organizers there and came away impressed by their vision for student discipleship. Last week I had the chance to interview the president and founder of SLU, Jay Strack, for my weekly Leadership Journal blog. Here’s a portion of that interview:
It seems we speak a lot to young people about following Christ, but don’t often flesh out what that looks like specific to them and their unique calling. Why do you feel this is an important part of their development?
At SLU we believe that 1 Corinthians 14:8 is spot on: “Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” We attempt to put students in a very distinctive unique environment. Since we are clear that our goal is to help them experience a 20-year quantum leap in learning how to think, dream, and lead; we deliberately put them in a corporate hotel, with world-class speakers, and a lot of behind the scenes opportunities.
This could mean a leadership session at a shark tank, whale tank, or dolphin experience at SeaWorld, or a launch pad at Cape Kennedy, or the Pentagon, White House, or Congressional Briefing, or lessons on leadership on the beaches of Normandy, Churchill’s cabinet war rooms, or walking the wall of ancient Jerusalem, or a lesson on the floor of the Roman coliseum, or serving at Give Kids the World for terminally ill children, serving in an orphanage in Kenya, or ministering in the slums of the planet.
We call this EPIC opportunities—Experiential, Participatory, Image Rich, and Community Connecting. In this environment and background we want students to be able to experience a call on their life. Since this generation is more numerous, affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse than any other, students want an experience. They don’t want to talk about something or hear about something—they want to do something. When students begin to hear and understand God’s call with crystal-clear clarity they tend to be quite responsive. It is a very exciting moment when the light goes on and they understand that “if God is for me who can be against me.”
It is also our conviction that the Lord doesn’t call us to a position per say—he calls us to a personal relationship with him. We believe this call is not merely a game changer—it is a life changer. We then try to equip students with the rules and tools of leadership and a biblical world-view that will allow them to live out this calling in an ever-changing society.