Student leaders build trust and break down barriers at LEAD Retreat

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The athlete group helps each other climb over the wall. Photo by Kira Roberts

Ronna Fisher, Content Editor

Before every school year, student leaders gather to plan, prepare and train for their leadership positions.  Student Leaders include Resident Advisors, Student Government Association, New Student Institute Mentors, LIFE Peer Mentors, Small Group Leaders, Student Athlete Representatives and Ministry Intern Representatives.

At LEAD Retreat, students spend time getting to know each other on a deeper level.  The retreat is planned months in advance by Student and Spiritual Development Staff and representatives from the Athletic department. Marian Redwine, Director of Leadership and Vocational Calling, adds that all sponsors, advisors, and coaches of each student leadership group are invited to help.

Misty Jaggers, Director for Student Success, explained the planning process: “We start brainstorming themes and creating a schedule in the spring and then divide up into committees to plan specific aspects of the retreat.”

Specific activities include breaking up into randomized small groups that allow students to share and respond to speakers and worship times.  Students are encouraged to be vulnerable and open with each other, creating deeper relationships.  The student leaders also go through various rope course activities.  Many times these activities attempt to build trust and confidence within the leadership teams.

In the past, worship has been lead by one or two people, but this year SNU’s traveling worship team, Remedy, led many of the worship services.  Many students shared that worship was one of the aspects of the retreat they enjoyed most.

Jamie Williams, junior Bio-Chem major, said, “Remedy did an excellent job, and it’s such a neat thing to be in a group of people pouring their heart out to God and being so open to hearing what He has to say.”

Junior Kinesiology major, Kyle Fultz agreed and added, “I especially enjoyed the last song when we all came together, locked our arms, swayed and worshiped as one.”

Speaking about the same experience, junior Nursing major, Shawnie Hunt said, “It was easily the most moving experience I’ve ever had with my peers.”

SNU Chaplain Blair Spindle spoke about the walls that students build to protect themselves.  He encouraged students not only to knock down the walls they had built around themselves but also attempt to reach past others’ walls.  Spindle also challenged students to go deeper in their faith and to put their trust in God and each other when the walls do start coming down.

Many students felt that the walls between students began to come down at LEAD Retreat.  “It helps me to remember that no matter who we are, no matter where we come from, no matter our past, that we are all in this together and we are one big family with a loving and enduring Father,” Hunt said.

“LEAD Retreat reminded me that many students are going through the same kind of issues I am currently facing, or even worse situations than me.  If being a little uncomfortable can help make someone’s day better, I think it is definitely worth it,” senior Computer Science and Psychology multidisciplinary major, Blake Jordan said.

Fultz said, “My mind was totally blown away at LEAD Retreat.  I am an athlete, and I really never got to know the so called ‘snubie’ . . . I now know that we are just one body: Southern Nazarene University.”

Jaggers said LEAD Retreat’s purpose is “ to create a unified community among SNU’s student leaders and to train and develop SNU’s student leaders.”

Redwine adds, “Though each of the groups has its own responsibilities and focus, we are all working together.  LEAD is a time for us to unite our message and come together with one mission.  It’s a chance for new leaders to get connected and for the students to get to know each other better and learn their shared stories.”

When asked whether he believed LEAD was successful in creating a united community, Fultz answered, “Yes, I believe it opened our eyes to see that we are all human.  We all have struggles in our life, and we are not alone in those struggles.  I know for me that it helped me break the barrier between athletes and non-athletes.  The retreat makes our school better because we get to open up, therefore opening our eyes to others, allowing us to truly see the good in every student.”

Students left LEAD feeling inspired, motivated and encouraged.  Jordan said of the retreat, “LEAD gave me hope that this year will be the start for students of all different backgrounds to come together and build a community in which everyone can thrive and enjoy.”

Williams knows that being a student leader goes beyond the start of a new year:  “My desire to be a leader that helps others as they grow and change at SNU doesn’t end with orienting students; it’s a daily choice on how I want to live my life.”