After more than 35 years of training leaders in an in-person week-long summer program, sadly it is now time to bid adieu to MidWest Leadership School.
Begun as a way to train leaders, the collaboration of then Central MidWest, Heartland (then Michigan and Ohio Valley), and Prairie Star Districts, the in-person school has produced more than 1000 graduates. Many were leaders in their congregations; some have entered professional ministry sparked in part by their experience at the school. While the curriculum was leadership, they also learned to trust themselves, work collaboratively, and connect beyond the walls of their congregation. Many “students” became “teachers” as co-creators of MWLS as lay staff. MWLS provided a deep sense of community. Lifelong friendships were created as learners created worship together, shared meals, as well as laughter and tears during Credo groups and Day’s End.
MWLS introduced a very valuable component when it added the Youth MidWest Leadership School (YMWLS) in 2009. YMWLS proved to be a great experience for our younger leaders—providing them a deep grounding not only in leadership skills, but also by connecting them more deeply with their nascent spirituality and understanding of what it means to be UU. They shared that understanding with each other, and with the adult school, through active joint participation in worship service creation. As well, YMWLS always provided a day of service to the local community, thereby showing that spirituality, leadership, and service are inextricably intertwined.
With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, we stopped in-person MWLS and YMWLS for safety reasons. We then realized that it would be difficult to resurrect the program as many of the necessary volunteers and co-leaders have shifted their focus, and we’ve also learned that we can do successful virtual leader education. While it does not create the same kind of intense and intimate learning experience as a week away at MWLS, our offerings do allow more people to attend without the barriers of being away from home for a week, and spending a sizeable amount of money to attend. Our Extended Leadership Experience in 2020-21 provided education to more than 3 times the number of a usual year, and at about 10% of the cost per person.
We are sorry to say goodbye to the in-person week-long MWLS, and YMWLS. Stay tuned to our MidAmerica website and our newsletter for more information about other leadership experiences, and how we will gather to share our experiences of MWLS as we say goodbye.
If you have questions about adult leadership education, please be in touch with Lisa Presley, firstname.lastname@example.org; for youth leadership education, please be in touch with either Nancy Combs-Morgan, email@example.com, Cameron Young, firstname.lastname@example.org.