The mission of Central Leadership Forum is to equip racially diverse teens to view themselves and others as image-bearers of God by fostering a passion for God, a love of truth, and a zeal to serve in order to engage their generation for Jesus Christ.
Started in 2015, Central Leadership Forum brings together a group of 20 diverse Christian eighth graders each year in St. Louis to better understand the great need of viewing themselves and others as image-bearers of God.
The program consists of 12 classes that meet from February through May. The two hour sessions recognize and discuss images, media worldviews, and history that omits, misrepresents, distorts and/or undermines the essentials of the Christian faith and the biblical view of men and women. The classes also applaud images, media, and history that accurately present the Gospel and the value of viewing others as fellow image-bearers. As students get to know one another and wrestle with these various issues, our prayer is that they will begin to understand each other’s backgrounds and perspectives to better equip them to be a light for Christ in their respective schools.
Central Leadership Forum culminates with a weeklong leadership retreat to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C. in early June, followed by a graduation ceremony and reception in August.
Why 8th grade?
You may be wondering why eighth grade? Why not sixth grade or ninth grade or twelfth grade?
Having taught this leadership program to a wide range of grades over the years (6th-12th), there are several reason why I chose eighth grade:
- They have a substantial knowledge base for good discussions (so the teacher does not have to lecture the whole time), but they are still open to learning new things and willing to share publicly.
- In brain development, they have moved from the concrete to the critical thinking stage as well, which is important for teaching media discernment and helping them grasp deeper theological concepts.
- Along these lines, eighth grade is also a time when they are developing and wrestling with their personal identity, hormones, body changes, and peer groups. Providing a small, Christ-centered leadership group can make a big difference in preparing them to be confident in who they are as image-bearers of God and what they believe.
- Lastly, it is an opportunity to prepare them for the worldviews they are going to face in their high school classrooms–particularly if they are in a secular school environment–and hopefully give them the tools to not only survive but thrive during those four years. For as they better understand themselves and each other’s backgrounds and perspectives, they will be equipped to be lights for Christ in their respective high schools.