On June 16–19, Cairn University hosted The Micah Conference 2016. Over 70 students, chaperones, keynote speakers, workshop leaders, and guests were on campus for the event. The students attended six keynote sessions; participated in workshops, discussion groups, and activities; and visited various ministries in the Philadelphia area.
Presented by the Trinity Institute for Leadership and Social Justice at Boston Trinity Academy, The Micah Conference is a conference planned for and by high school students, empowering youth to create change in their communities. Focusing on the urgent social issues of today, students hear from experts in enacting social justice based on a Christ-centered worldview and biblically sound theology.
Isaiah Perkins, head student coordinator of The Micah Conference, summarizes the mission of The Micah Conference this way:
In a broken world that craves success and self-fulfillment, there is hope amongst the hatred and greed. Educated youth can truly combat these worldly injustices with fresh and strategic views that generations before never considered. The Micah Conference stands to raise these passionate youth to make a difference on a local, national, and international level. It is our hope that all who attend the conference are deeply inspired to impact their communities in the name of justice and are driven with hearts of faith to liberate the world’s many unspoken injustices.
Keynotes speakers this year included Reverend Michael Carrion (Senior Pastor, Promised Land Covenant Church), Shane Claiborne (Co-Founder, The Simple Way), Katie Smith Milway (Nonprofit Organization Management, The Bridgespan Group), Dr. Michael Chen (Superintendent, Valley Christian Schools), Dr. Teri Elliot-Heart (Director, Trinity Institute for Leadership and Social Justice) and Dr. Coz Crosscombe, assistant professor and director of Cairn’s Urban Ministry First Year Program.
After several inspiring keynote sessions, Dr. Coz Crosscombe spoke on the importance of relationship building on Thursday morning. He emphasized that relationships are at the core of urban ministry and that as we go on to serve in ministry, we face complex issues that do not always have simple solutions.
“Education is a good example of a complex issue,” Coz explained. “When thinking about how to improve an education system, we need to think about all of the factors that go into one’s education. Your education is a product of your parents’ education, your neighborhood, your teacher’s educational background, and your teachers’ parents’ background. Now do you see how complex of an issue education is?”
In addition to highlighting the complexity of problems that we face when we try to implement change, Coz also posed the question, “Why do you serve, and who do you serve?” Students chimed in and shared their thoughts: “I serve because God calls us to serve.” “Serving gives us purpose beyond work.” “We serve the homeless.” “We serve those in need.”
Coz summarized the issue of how we see those who we serve in this way: “When we serve, we tend to serve minorities. We serve people who are worse off than we are. When we think of these people as those who are worse off and need us to improve their lives, our service becomes transactional. Most service is a McDonald’s transaction. You go in, get what you need, and then we wonder why nothing ever changes.”
He challenged the students to think about ministry differently. “When you go on missions, people will want to know what you did. They will want to see pictures. But are you willing to pay the price?” he asked. “Get away from the feel-good mentality and invest in people’s lives. Listening to someone’s story is a great thing to do.” He encouraged students to think about what we do when we take pictures on mission trips. “We take “hero” shots, and the other people in the photos are those in need. It doesn’t feel so good for the other people in the photo. How would you like it if someone came into your life and took a picture with you, and everyone could see you were a person in need?”
With challenging but inspiring words, Coz’s message was the perfect send-off for the students as they went to observe and serve at various ministries in Philadelphia. The students split up into four groups and visited Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, Urban Hope, AlphaCare, and Simple Way.
The Micah Conference is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn from experts in social justice and mission work; explore the meaning of justice from a biblical worldview; engage in discussions on unity, diversity, economic disparity, and Christian faith; and fellowship with like-minded individuals who are passionate about bringing forth change for Christ.
“The Micah Conference was truly eye opening for me this year as I heard about all the needs of the world,” Isaiah shared. “I was also empowered to take action to combat injustice on a local level in my community.”
For more information about The Micah Conference, visit micahconference.org.