‘Pecha Kucha’ fires up United Methodist collegiate ministries at NEXT

Nicole Burdakin

Jon Woon
Jon Woon, The Upper Room, delivers a Pecha Kucha talk on digital media convergence.

Pecha Kucha talks led by United Methodist students, activists, and entrepreneurs, ignited dialogue and collaboration among participants at Imagine What’s NEXT, held November 7-9, 2014, in Denver, Colo. Designed to spark conversation in small studio groups, each presentation was limited to less than seven minutes and challenged students to rethink how they could impact the church and their communities.

“Every component of NEXT is designed to empower the voices of young people while encouraging questions and conversation about how to join God’s work in the world today,” said Beth Ludlum, director of student faith and leadership formation at GBHEM.

Imagine What’s NEXT was an event for young adults designed to facilitate a fertile ground for imaginative work, focused specifically on the spaces where church/world and present/future meet. The event was organized by a launch team of college students, collegiate ministers and other creative disciples from across the United Methodist connection, and was sponsored by the Division of Higher Education of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Pecha Kucha is a presentation style originating in Japan in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format keeps presentations concise and fast-paced in multiple-speaker sessions.

“The Pecha Kucha talks, especially in concert with an online platform for dialogue among students and presenters, created space for more exciting and interactive presentations in smaller settings and allowed the participants to go deeper in exploring how they can put their faith and passion into action,” Ludlum said.

Alexis Kane Speer
Alexis Kane Speer speaks at the “Music/Arts/Word” Pecha Kucha session.

Jenn Meadows, first-year student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, told participants about a greater purpose she sees behind social media in her presentation during the “Digital/Technology” Pecha Kucha session. “Social media connects people, ministries, and social justice issues,” Meadows said, “and we can utilize it to bring light to issues, start a conversation—but most importantly, with social media you have a voice.”

Social media can be used for establishing thought leadership and connecting with thought leaders within social justice specializations, Meadows said.

“Our generation sleeps with their phones. And it’s true,” said Jon Woon, another Pecha Kucha presenter and digital media specialist at The Upper Room. He is also a lead developer for Project Moliti, a prayer app in which users can request prayers or pray for others around the world.

“We know what prayer is. It’s an age-old topic. When we couple the idea with the digital, what does that mean? What does that look like?” Woon said, and encouraged students to be brave in asking “why” questions.

Participants at NEXT heard Pecha Kucha sessions on Digital/Technology, Experimental Church, Mission/Justice, Music/Arts/Word, or Social Entrepreneurship.

“At the PK talks, I discovered that we can help the world from where we are, just having the mindset that we’re doing our work not only for our local community but to better the global community, as well,” said Emmanuel Martinez, a student from Paine College who participated in the “Social/Mission” session.

“I also realized that ‘interfaith’ is a core value we have to adopt right now,” Martinez said. “As Christians we have to understand our local/global context not just as us, but as other faiths, too.”

Imagine What's NEXT
Student studio groups continue discussion outside Pecha Kucha sessions.

Speakers in the  “Social/Mission” session were Kelley Frances Fenelon of the Nashville Mobile Market and representatives from Generation Transformation, a program that sends United Methodist mission fellows and global justice volunteers to sites across the United States and the world. Alternatively, students in the “Music/Arts/Word” session heard from Alexis Kane Speer, founding director of STEPS Initiative in Toronto, and Chris Rapko, mix show DJ from Q100 in Atlanta.

Speer presented on urban art installations she has coordinated and the transformative potential in creating public community art spaces. “It’s neat to be able to speak to faith-based group,” Speer, who typically speaks for community planners or at arts conferences, said. “It’s great to see young people with a common passion but unique talents, people who really want to engage with each other.”

Groups also heard “Experimental Church” themed talks from Erica Allen, pastor in residence at Providence Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., and Mike Baughman, community curator at Union, a kind of new church start/coffee house in Dallas, Tex., as well as “Social Entrepreneurship” presentations from Daniel Poku of CauseCakes and Scott Montgomery of Restoration Ministries.

Burdakin is editorial and production assistant, Office of Communications, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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