Josh (left) & his team took home the Golden Gutter Award!

YOKE’s mission is to impact middle school students by equipping passionate, faithful mentors to help those students discover their identity and purpose in Christ. Our annual Leadership Summit is just one of the tools that we use to equip those mentors. This passion is rooted in the Great Commission, Christ’s charge to make disciples everywhere that we go. It’s also important to us because it fulfills the Apostle Paul’s instructions to Timothy – to teach what we’ve learned to the next generation who will then be ready to pass it on to others.

More than 100 YOKE Folk, staff, and guests came together for this year’s Summit at the Carson Springs Conference Center in Newport. Our goal was threefold: to foster a sense of community, to provide refreshment near the middle of our school year, and to help equip our leaders, not just for their weekly service with YOKE, but for a lifetime of ministry. With some thorough planning and a lot of hard work from our dedicated team, we managed to accomplish all three.

YOKE Board Member Matthew Best was our keynote speaker for the weekend. Matthew is the Executive Director of the Change Center and is an assistant pastor at Children of God Ministries in Mechanicsville. In addition to Matthew, Andy and Ashlyn Henry-Stanton led an important workshop on Wellbeing in the Wilderness. Andy is the author of Recovering Abundance: 12 Practices for Small-Town Leaders, and Ashlyn works with the Bonner Scholars program at Carson Newman University.

It was the first Leadership Summit for Josh Rose, a student at Carson Newman, who just started with YOKE last semester. He got involved because a friend invited him to join the team. According to Josh, it’s been a blessing serving the students at Maury Middle School, in Jefferson County, but he’s also gained a lot from the YOKE community, and the Leadership Summit was a big part of that.

He came into the weekend already tired and in need of rest. Though he says he didn’t get much sleep, the weekend was refreshing and inspiring, and he is ready for a new semester of ministry to begin a new semester.

I found a group of people I get the privilege of calling friends. This community is filled with people that share my questions, my problems, and my pain, yet they also have the same love for Jesus and for each other. Every person I interacted with poured something into me and showed me how the body of Christ can look when all the parts are working together. I felt cared for and loved by everyone from YOKE Folk to the staff. From sneaking out for a McDonald’s run with Josh (Bisig) and Annie (Brown), to hearing Sarah (Scheafnocker) open up about her struggles and how it’s okay to talk about our “dips” with our walk with Christ. The work they do every week prepares young adults to run a ministry, to be authentic, and to boldly talk about their faith in front of people. It’s okay chug Mountain Dew, to perform silly skits, and to sing songs stupid about burritos. It’s also okay to fail and fall on your face. Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4) YOKE might primarily be a ministry for middle school students, but I believe it is truly a ministry for young adults as well.”

Thanks to everyone who gave to help make this weekend possible.  We want to extend special thanks to three churches in particular who share our passion for developing leaders and helped sponsor the event: Hope Fellowship in North Knoxville, Valley Church in Hardin Valley, and Village Church in Norwood. We’re so glad to have you on our team!