Kaleo Encourages Christian Leadership Among High School Students

Kaleo WindowsPLAINVIEW – A little more than a month after completing the Kaleo Youth Theology Institute immersion, Nicole Adams is reflecting on her first experience as director of the program and the effect it had on its high school participants.

“Our goal is to nurture students to become better servant leaders. I hope we did that,” said Adams, who is the coordinator of student activities and director of the Kaleo program at Wayland Baptist University. “I think, so often, our really strong youth group leaders have a tendency to be placed in those positions and then we forget that they need care as well.”

Kaleo, a Greek term meaning “to call,” is a year-long program that encourages high school youth to explore their relationship with God and how it relates to their personal ministry and leadership skills. The program aims to transform their lives through discovery, discernment and the affirmation of God’s call to Christian leadership.

High school sophomores and juniors are recommended to the program by either a pastor or parent. Once accepted, they are paired with a mentor in their church. About three months before the official Kaleo immersion, students participate in a specialized study with their mentor, setting the groundwork for their leadership immersion experience. The immersion is a three-phase, 18-day experience that combines a wilderness outing with campus study and mission work in order for participants to explore their relationship with God in different settings.  In June, students spent three days kayaking down the Pecos River, then returned to the Wayland campus to work with the School of Christian Studies professors before heading to New York City on mission. Application and recommendation forms are available at www.kaleowbu.com.

Adams said this year’s focus was based on Nehemiah 2:18, “and I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also for the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ So they strengthened their hands for good work.”

“We wanted to set them up with tools to go out and do what they do, and do it better,” Adams said. “We wanted them to return home with those tools and then be able to rise up and build.”

Not only did the participants learn lessons about how to study, grow spiritually and apply what they are learning to their personal walk and testimony, but they connected with each other, building relationships and strengthening their spiritual walk.

“It was eye opening,” said Zek Mosley of Spur. “To see others walking the same path, especially at my age, is a huge encouragement for me.”

James Miller from Rayville, La., said connecting with the others in the group was one of the most uplifting aspects of the immersion experience.

“We literally met [a few] days ago, and I feel close,” Miller said. “I feel like I could share anything I wanted with them and they wouldn’t judge me.”

The group bonded during the wilderness experience that Adams said is meant to bring the group together and to focus on God with minimal distractions. Upon completing the wilderness exercise the group returned to the Wayland campus where they spent several days working with WBU professors, taking classes on Christian leadership and working for God’s kingdom. They also visited with local Christian leaders who serve God through their businesses. The final portion of the immersion was spent in New York City, working with Graffiti Ministries to witness to the people of Coney Island through service.

“We did everything from cleaning windows, and picking up trash, to paying for people’s laundry, really as an opportunity to start conversations,” Adams said. “We were able to start real relationships just by going out and serving the community of Coney Island.”

Upon completion of the immersion experience, the participants return to their home churches and continue to work with their mentors for the remainder of the year.

Adams is already making plans for the 2022 Kaleo experience, expecting a good number of applicants. The program is open to high school students who show leadership potential in their church. Pastors or parents can recommend a student at www.kaleowbu.com. Students will need to complete an application. The cost is $1,500 per student. Churches pay $500 and the student is responsible for the remainder. Adams said the program will provide fundraising information for students who need to raise funds for their portion. For more information, visit the website or contact Adams at adamsn@wbu.edu.