Propel trains student leaders, missionaries, church volunteers

By Ellie Lambert, Photos by Christian Challenge | May 1, 2024

Marc Hill, Christian Challenge state director, speaks at Propel, Christian Challenge’s annual leadership retreat.

Taking a student from lost, unaware of their need for the gospel to a laborer who desires to serve Christ’s church is a transformational vision students take away from their time as a leader of Christian Challenge.

Propel, Christian Challenge’s annual leadership retreat, equips both student leaders and missionaries of college campuses across the state. Propel endeavors to accomplish this goal of mobilizing leaders by giving them the tools to serve and love their local church. This year 79 students from 16 college campuses across the state gathered at Trinity Southern Baptist Church in Casa Grande April 16-18 for Propel.

“Propel is designed to help missionaries enlist, equip and empower student leaders to do the work of ministry on the campus. We want to help chapters fulfill the mission God has given us to mobilize servant leaders,” said Marc Hill, Christian Challenge state director.

The event included a keynote teaching from Hill, followed by skills-based breakout sessions on evangelism and discipleship for both students and missionaries. Students also participated in multiple mixer activities and campus debriefs. Participants were encouraged to share what they had learned and start the conversation of how to apply it to their ministry back on campus.

Challenge strives to train missionaries and student leaders to be the extension of the church on the college campus. One way they do this is by inviting church volunteers to participate in the training. Over the years, more church members have been grasping the vision of Challenge’s local church partnership. Thirty-six missionaries and church volunteers were also in attendance at Propel, eager to learn how to best disciple the future leaders of their churches.

Skyler Cook (in green shirt), college minister at Mercy Hill Church in downtown Phoenix, talks with students at Propel.

One of the volunteers in attendance was Skyler Cook. Cook serves as college minister at Mercy Hill Church in downtown Phoenix, working alongside the Arizona State University Downtown Challenge chapter.

For Cook, encouraging the missionaries at Arizona State University Downtown to mobilize servant leaders is how they advance God’s kingdom in the city of Phoenix.
“The church has a tremendous opportunity to focus on and love students who are in transition,” Cook said.

Cook understands the vitality of equipping those in seasons of transition due to experiences in his own life. Cook was constantly moving during his childhood and has a heart for teaching college students to see their season of transition as a place where they can develop as leaders.

“People are not taught how to thrive in transition; people are told that change is not always a good thing,” Cook said. “Our goal is to give them a solid community of people that love them, love Jesus and want to help them enrich themselves and grow.”

Church volunteers like Cook believe the local church can best support and encourage their leaders by simply being available to them and making connections that exist outside the collegiate ministry setting.

Students work together at Propel, Christian Challenge’s annual leadership retreat.

“We get to come alongside Christian Challenge and offer them what we think is valuable from the church’s perspective. So that’s leadership to the campus missionaries. That’s a little deeper discipleship,” Cook said.

Additionally, Cook shared the benefit of having more life experience to exemplify to students. “We understand what life has to offer for the next few years,” he said. “We want to be another level of discipleship, mentorship and also hold the leaders accountable.”

College is a season of transition for many but also a launching board for students looking to take the next step in their faith. Propel serves to fuel the flame of passion for the gospel and give them the tools to serve their church and advance God’s kingdom.

Ellie Lambert is a campus missionary with Christian Challenge and a member of Mercy Hill Church in Phoenix.

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