By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Mississippi Conference Communications Specialist
Photo right: This is Mike Howington around age 17, a young leader who led prayer during school lunch.
Growing up the son of a Methodist preacher, Mike Howington said he prayed often in front his church family and indeed before every meal, with the exception of the ones he ate in his high school cafeteria.
"The difference was peer pressure, acceptance, and fear...It was that little demon that sits on your shoulder and says, 'people are going to laugh at you; people are going to think you are weird. They are going to think you are a Jesus freak," he stated.
Howington said he was troubled daily over his decision not to pray at school, but that changed when he found the courage to oppose "the demon." He bowed his head for 30 seconds and prayed silently before eating. From that day forward he prayed at lunch. To his surprise, his peers began praying too. By the end of the school year, Howington said he was leading 20-25 students in prayer. The group eventually went from blessing their food out loud to sharing prayer requests.
Howington, who is the Mississippi Conference Youth and Families Coordinator, recently recalled his youth experience as he helped plan the conference's new student cohort. This ministry will focus on youth spiritual formation -- teaching them to love and lead like God.
"I use my story as an analogy. Just praying at my cafeteria table, I was being a leader. All I did was be obedient to how I was raised and who God wants me to be," explained Howington.
The student cohort has been developed collaboratively by the conference and Ministry Architects. It is designed to equip today's leaders from different church sizes, cultures, and locations, to grow and serve their communities as disciples -- comfortable with questions and doubts.
Twenty-two students in high school will be selected from a pool of applications to participate. Those selected are committing to a fee and two years to the program. To read more details about the Mississippi Conference new student cohort and how to apply, click here.
"My dream is that we give kids the spiritual formation to step out on faith in their own life and feel like they are able to have leadership in their everyday walk and be the leaders for Christ that we are supposed to be," Howington enthusiastically commented.