The Maplewood Academy seniors enjoyed a hands on experience in governing structure on Oct. 22, 2019. For a day, the students took on leadership roles at the Minnesota Conference as well as presenting reports at a mock board of trustees meeting.

Maplewood’s American government class elected a conference president, vice president and a treasurer. Each of these officers was supported by an assistant. Other students took roles as department heads.

Jimme Deng was elected conference president and Shee Paw assisted the president. John Mungandi was elected vice president and was assisted by Lul Lul and Luis Gonzalez. The student treasurer was Jay Kim and he was assisted by Brian Ombiro and Korey Chaffee.

Other students worked in Human Resources, Hispanic Ministries, Trust Services, Education, Youth, and Women’s Ministries.

Fielding questions and analyzing data

Minnesota Conference Human Resources director Savannah Carlson began the day with an overview of the church government structure in the Minnesota Conference, the Mid-America Union, the North American Division and the General Conference.

Students then spent an hour and a half with their officer or department heads. After enjoying a lunch together, the mock board of trustees meeting began. The student president called on reports from the different departments, and the students fielded questions from the conference staff. It was a change of pace for conference officers to see someone else on the receiving end of questions.

Student conference president Jimme Deng was impressed with the data at the president’s command. “One of the most interesting things was the chart about the organization that President [Justin] Lyons shared,” Deng said. “It was interesting how much tithe comes in and how they used the money to benefit the organization.”

Deng was able to see that the president has a lot to digest. “He takes in all the data and tries to keep it on track,” the senior said. “I think the hard thing about being president is having to take in so many things at once.”

Senior Adeline Martin observed another challenge of leadership. “The president has a lot to oversee and a lot of meetings. People may not see him doing as much because a lot of what he does has to remain confidential.”

Luis Gonzalez was surprised when vice president for administration Brian Mungandi reviewed the number of churches, companies and groups in Minnesota Conference. “There is a huge chart of all the chuches and organizations. I didn’t realize how many did not have church status,” Gonzalez said.

Jay Kim was impressed with the level of organization he saw in the treasury department. “I didn’t know it was that complicated,” he said. “You have to be perfectly organized to keep track of every single part. When they opened their spreadsheets, I saw all the sections they were keeping track of. Their report was like 100 pages.” Kim summed up his view of the biggest challenge by saying, “I think the toughest thing is when they have a lot of expenses and the money coming in doesn’t match. You cannot control how much tithe is coming in.”

Korey Chafee found the conference investments to be the most interesting part of the treasury department. “The hardest thing was the organization and the spreadsheets,” Chaffee said.

Minnesota Conference treasurer Dwayne Mauk was surprised by how much the students grasped in a day. “It was not just a game to them,” he said. “They asked serious questions.”

He was even more impressed with the mock board of trustees meeting.  “When we got to the meeting, they had listened well enough to report back to the board, and it was as though I was doing it myself,” added Mauk.

The teachers at Maplewood Academy and staff of the conference office hope this becomes a part of the curriculum each year.

John Bedell is principal of Maplewood Academy in Hutchinson, Minnesota.