SERVEteams left with uncertain leadership
SERVEteams are the main outreach for the Church Relations Department to potential MNU students and a way of supporting Nazarene churches.
The teams traveling this summer will be Squad 66 and Relentless. Squad 66 consists of six students who will serve as counselors at Nazarene youth camps, and Relentless is a worship band that will play at camps and other Nazarene events. While members of these teams have been selected and each team has at least one experienced member, the department coordinating them is entirely new or has yet to be hired.
According an email sent to the 2017 SERVEteam applicants, previous SERVEteam coordinator Kayla Cook had her last day on January 17 and was replaced by MNU freshman Bethany Kouts. Kevin Borger, the assistant to the president for Church Relations and leader of the SERVEteam ministry for the past six years, had his official last day on February 28. Student workers in the Church Relations department said they have heard of no potential candidates for his replacement.
In an email to summer team applicants, Borger explained that interviews had been delayed for over a month and final budget approval for the program was not completed until after the interviews were in the process of being reviewed.
Borger confirmed that he will work under a contract arrangement through April in order to help train the summer team members.
In order to ease the transition of Borger’s departure, the SERVEteam selection process was assisted by students, alumni and staff.
Thomson Ticum, a student worker in the Church Relations department and former member and leader of an MNU SERVEteam, said he was asked to contact applicants.
“Obviously, it could be better,” Ticum said. “They don’t have a person in Kevin’s position yet. He’s staying, kind of part time, to choose the SERVEteams, but I feel like with him leaving, they should have appointed another person.”
Quinn North, a summer 2017 member of Relentless and former member of 2015-16 SERVEteam Voices of Praise, said starting a new team during this time of no official leadership has been confusing compared to other years.
“We’re essentially being formed, and we don’t know who we’re working for,” North said.
In addition to impacting the specific students on SERVEteams, North said that the lack of leadership for the Church Relations department has serious ramifications for the university. He said when congregation members give money to the Nazarene churches in MidAmerica’s region, part of that money goes to support MNU.
“Because they’re supporting us, we kind of, in many ways, have an obligation to keep up a relationship with them,” North said. “Until we have someone in church relations, those relations are not being maintained, and if those relations are not being maintained, they degrade over time.”
Ana Brunk, returning SERVEteam member of Squad 66, said that the teams are important for maintaining these relationships as well as reaching out to potential students.
“Our job as a public relations team involves the promotion of MNU to the youth on our school’s region,” Brunk said. “The ultimate mission is to tangibly share the love and good news of Christ with the students we come in contact with.”
Ticum said he is worried about the selection of the new SERVEteam leader because of how much the teams can be shaped by the person who is in charge.
“It’s going to be up to the next person’s dream,” Ticum said. “My hope is that they don’t take steps back, but take steps forward. Kevin Borger revived the SERVEteams. It was dead when he came in. So I feel like the next person’s job is to grow it.”
Borger said he is hopeful for the future of the SERVEteams after his departure.
"All indications received from Dr. Spittal point to furthering the impactfulness of this ministry,” Borger said. “I am excited about the future of MNU SERVEteams.”
Dana Palmer- More by this author
Dana Palmer is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.