Tag Archives: Marlene Frankenfield

Ministerial Update (April 2014)

Hadi Sunarto
Hadi Sunarto was licensed as a deacon at Philadelphia Praise Center in March.

Steve Kriss, Director of Leadership Cultivation, provided this update from the March & April meetings of the Credentials and Ministerial Committees:

Hadi Sunarto (East Rutherford, NJ) was approved for a license for specific the ministry of deacon at Philadelphia Praise Center.

Krista Showalter Ehst (Bally, PA) was approved with a license toward ordination to serve as pastor at Alpha (NJ) Mennonite Church.

Bill Martin was approved with a license toward ordination and to serve as associate pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church.

Danilo Sanchez (Whitehall congregation) was approved to serve as Allentown area youth minister with a license toward ordination.

Donna Merow was approved for ordination and continues to serve as pastor at Ambler (Pa) Mennonite Church.

Several new members have been added to the Ministerial and Credentials committees.

Mike Clemmer (Towamencin) and Marlene Frankenfield (Salford) have been named to the Ministerial Committee.   Heidi Hochstetler (Bally) resigned her position from the committee earlier this year.   Continuing Ministerial Committtee members include:  Verle Brubaker (Swamp), Ken Burkholder (Deep Run East), Carolyn Egli (Whitehall), Janet Panning (Plains), Mary Nitzsche (Blooming Glen), Jim Williams (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life).

Aldo Siahaan (Philadelphia Praise) and Marta Castillo (Nueva Vida Norristown New Life) have been named to three year terms on the credentials committee.    Continuing committee members include:  Rose Bender (Whitehall), Verle Brubaker (Swamp) and Mike Clemmer (Towamencin).

Steve Kriss began serving as Conference staff liaison for both committees since the retirement of Noah Kolb late in 2013.

Ministry in “thin places” marks Frankenfield’s journey

by Sheldon C. Good, Salford, with Stephen Kriss, Philadelphia Praise Center
shelds3@gmail.com, skriss@francoiaconference.org

After dropping her young children off for Sunday school, Marlene Frankenfield often sat on the sidewalk outside Salford Mennonite Church. She was “going through a time of disillusionment with the church,” and didn’t want anything to do with institutionalized religion. Instead, she wanted church to be “real.”

While lounging outside Salford, youth frequently walked past Frankenfield on the way to Sunday school. They soon began greeting her and making small talk.

“It wasn’t long before they’d sometimes skip Sunday school to come chat with me, sharing their real lives,” Frankenfield said. “That was the very thing I was longing for. Soon they were stopping by my house on Saturday nights.” That was over 20 years ago. Marlene’s journey moved from congregationally based youth ministry to collaborative work with Franconia Conference and Christopher Dock High School for over a dozen years.

Relationships with Salford youth awakened Frankenfield to the possibility of ministry and brought her back into congregational life. Her initial formal call to serve came shortly after those interactions with teenagers on the church sidewalk when the church invited her to serve alongside of a growing youth ministry. After eight years at Salford, she began in the joint role of conference youth minister and campus pastor. She was licensed for ministry in June 2002 and ordained in May 2007.

Frankenfield found herself ministering in what she calls the “thin spaces” between classes at Dock and working doggedly to bring youth ministry to the center of congregational life and faith formation across the Conference.

“For young people, there is so much going on in their faith and in life, you need to be a person that can listen,” she said. “You need to be a God bearer, listening through God’s ears.” A quotation from Douglas Steere shapes her work. “To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”

As she moves on, Franconia Conference and Eastern District Conference have named a shared youth minister alongside the campus pastor role at Christopher Dock. Frankenfield says this is a sign that church leaders have noticed the need for steady youth leadership. “For so long, I felt like I worked in something separate from the vision of the conference, so to see so many people excited about youth, that other people are catching the vision, as I step away, is the biggest gift I could have,” she said.

Marlene offered this prayer and dream as she completed her work in consideration of the ongoing possibilities for youth ministry in and beyond Franconia Conference, “That adults will listen to our youth—the underrepresented, and pay attention to the diverse places where the Holy Spirit is at work. That Franconia Conference would provide ways for women young and old to be mentored and empowered. That Franconia Conference see to it that all people who work with children and youth be educated in child safety, which will provide a safe healthy environment for all. That God’s spirit would be present in each young person to feel God’s unconditional love and experience God’s grace within a faith community.”

As Marlene considered her decision to end in her dual roles, she said, “I made this decision to transition with much prayer and discernment and I felt like it was the right time to explore something new. I have faith that God will have a plan for me for the future and God also has a plan for the places where I’ve ministered. One of my goals when I started was to lead in a way that invited others to lead—to step out of the way and be a mentor and encourager for others—to create a safe place for students to explore leadership.”

After these years of leadership development at Christopher Dock and Franconia Conference through chapel-planning, retreat planning, walking with youth pastors, and calling forth new youth ministers and leaders, Marlene’s work shaped space for new leaders, even now, collaboratively, across boundaries and in-between spaces, with real hope and committed service even in the midst of questions.

Refreshing our vision for youth ministry

by Marlene Frankenfield, Salford, mfrankenfield@franconiaconference.org

As youth leaders, pastors, and youth gathered with Eastern District and Franconia Conference leaders in the fellowship hall at Towamencin Mennonite Church on June 6, there was a buzz of energy in the air. Conference leadership invited these groups to be a part of creating a vision for youth ministry and to help bring that vision closer to the core of the vision and mission of both conferences.Youth Visioning

I was impressed at the passion and engagement of the mix of people at each table. It was great to hear the table groups invite the youth give the verbal report back to the whole gathering. There was a sense of hope as the young voices spoke.

Zion Mennonite’s Youth Pastor, Scott Benner, and I were asked to give the history of youth ministry in Franconia and Eastern District conferences to reveal some past cycles in conference leadership and programming. In the past there was more focus on intentional planned gatherings that helped to build relationships between youth groups. History shows that conference youth ministry moved away from programming to more resourcing gatherings for youth leaders and youth. Over the years there were many effective initiatives that worked toward calling and developing young leaders through intentional relationships and mentoring. Another cycle was both conferences’ connection to Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in development, teaching, and vision while inviting a close connection to congregations. This relationship benefited the church, home, and school as Anabaptist faith was woven through education.

As I listened to each table report, I heard a strong call for more gatherings where discussion and discernment can happen. There was a desire for a deeper spirituality and to create settings where young people can share about what God is doing in their lives and discuss theological issues. I have noticed over my years in conference leadership that we have moved from a “theology of answers” to more of a teaching style and discipleship that welcomes questions and discovery. This changed how we worked at faith formation in congregations and conferences.

Youth VisioningI heard the world “belonging” used many times during the evening. Young people seem to want to belong to the church. I sense church leaders are searching for ways to create a safe place for young people to feel like they belong as they surround them with adults that walk with and mentor them, while pointing the way to a relationship with Christ. This approach uses spiritual practices and story to weave faith through culture instead of teaching young people that they need to be separate from the world—a philosophy that sometimes created fear of the culture and the world. This is a change from the programming, teaching, and preaching from the past that was more of an evangelistic focus, that is, more about “saving” young people and then teaching and discipling them into belonging to the church.

As one of the youth closed the meeting with a final blessing, I was overwhelmed by the gift of this meeting as I transition out of my position as conference youth minister in July. I am leaving with deep hope as conference leaders work toward a shared vision for youth ministry. I have been truly blessed working with many youth pastors and volunteer leaders that have a passion for walking with young people, loving them unconditionally, and extending God’s grace within a faith community.


Is your teen almost Christian? — Part 2

Nate Stucky & Marlene Frankenfield



Almost Christian by Kenda Creasy Dean has grabbed the attention of not just persons that minister with youth but church leaders across all denominations. Nate Stucky, Ph.D. Almost Christianstudent at Princeton Seminary, returned for more conversations with church leaders, youth leaders and parents at Zion Mennonite Church (Souderton, Pa.) on April 14. Nate challenged the group with three practical ways to intentionally communicate a passionate faith with young people:

1. Tell Your Own Story: Find a way to tell your own story of faith to a young person, and then let the young person share their story. As you tell these stories, try to give God “agency.” In other words, make sure God is an actor in the story. What does God do in these stories? If we don’t answer that question, I think we fail to follow the example of scripture. Three different stories you might tell:

  1. Fill in the blank: If it weren’t for ________, there’s no way I’d be following Jesus today. Name one person for whom this would be true and tell the story of how that person impacted your life and shared Jesus with you.
  2. Dark Night of the Soul: Share the story of a time when God seemed most distant. How did you navigate that time? What did God teach you in the midst of it? How did that time shape your faith?
  3. Thin Spaces: Where and when do you consistently feel closest to God? Through music, art, nature, acts of service? Pick one place and tell a young person how you discovered that space, why you think God consistently finds you there and what that thin space might reveal about who God is.

2. Building the Constellation: While there are many benefits to the professionalization of youth ministry over the past few decades, one unanticipated and unfortunate byproduct is parents treating youth workers like “the hired help” to do youth ministry. In reality, youth ministry is the calling and work of the entire congregation. Each young person needs as many people as possible surrounding him or her to encourage and nurture the seeds of faith. Mark DeVries talks about having a constellation of support around each young person. Parents might benefit from making a list of the people who make up the constellation of support around their teen (teachers, youth sponsors, pastors, family friends, peers, coaches, etc.) and then intentionally building relationships within the constellation to provide as much support and encouragement as possible for the teen. Let the teen know that all these people care about their faith!

3. Participation in the life of the church: What might we learn from interrogating the bulletin each week? Do adults know why we sing? Why we pray, read scripture, receive an offering, take communion, baptize, and preach? Each element is presumably there for a reason, and adults and teens each stand to learn something from asking hard questions about why they exist in the first place. By having these conversations, we can’t help but increase the whole community’s vocabulary of faith. Additionally, Kenda reminds us that in order for any of these practices to be “Christian,” we have to explicitly connect the practices to Jesus. We practice “X” because we follow Christ.

When Nate asked Kenda Creasy Dean what one thing she would want to tell parents, she gave a simple and profound challenge: “Do one radical thing for your faith; do it in full view of your youth; and tell them you do it because you follow Jesus, not just because you are a wholesome or nice person.”

In an age when we feel like we are losing ground in passing on faith, perhaps we need to avoid being fearful and recognize that that the Holy Spirit is already acting in the lives of our young people and that we can come alongside and more actively share our stories of faith.

Conference announces staff transitions

Marlene Frankenfield, Franconia Conference Youth Minister and Campus Pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School announced her resignation effective July 15. Marlene served in roles both with Dock and Conference for the last 12 years working tirelessly with young leaders. She said, “I plan to do a big exhale and I hope to live into the quote from Frederick Buechner, ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”’

According to Ertell M. Whigham Jr., Conference Executive Minister, “I’m excited about Marlene’s future. She’s moving forward to continue to cultivate her ministry call. She’s contributed much to us as a community in bridging the world of youth, youth ministers, conference and Christopher Dock. I value her insights as well as commitments and look forward to building on her work over the next years.”

Currently, a youth ministry vision task force is working in conjunction with Eastern District Conference to extend and enhance Franconia Conference’s ongoing partnerships and commitments to youth ministry and leadership development. More details will be released as they are available on transition and future direction of youth ministry within the intercultural, missional and formational priorities of Franconia Conference.

Dr. Conrad Swartzentruber, Principal at Dock High School remarked, “Marlene has a deep passion for our youth and Christopher Dock greatly benefited from her presence. Her participatory approach enabled students to develop gifts of leadership and ministry. She met students where they were, always pointing them to Christ. While we will miss Marlene at Dock, we wish her God’s richest blessing as she continues to use her gifts in ministry to others.”

Emily Ralph of Bechtelsville, Pa has been named associate director of communication beginning May 1. Most recently she was part of the pastoral team at Swamp Mennonite Church in Quakertown, serving in a worship minister role and as cofounder of a communication/public relations business, Rethink Creative Services. Emily’s work will focus around web-based communication, conference assembly and development communication. She will be employed two days a week based at the Mennonite Conference Center in Harleysville and will be a full-time student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Pennsylvania.

According to Steve Kriss, Director of Communication, “Emily’s gifts and commitments complement our direction in providing more effective and frequent communication in a variety of venues, following up on recent requests from both conference board and constituency. Emily brings a commitment to excellent and professional quality work along with a passionate commitment to follow in the way of Christ. Her work will be an asset as we continue our journey together toward equipping, empowering and embracing God’s mission.”

Journey toward ordination: For such a time as this

Marlene Frankenfield

ordin.jpgMarlene Frankenfield was ordained as a minister within Franconia Mennonite Conference on May 5, 2007, at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. She serves as campus pastor and conference youth minister. The following is an adaptation of her words shared that morning in chapel.

I would never have imagined 18 years ago that I would be in this moment talking about my journey toward ordination. It was the invitation to be a volunteer youth leader at Salford Mennonite Church. Lori Danzenbaker is here today as the one who extended that invitation. This was the beginning of this wild ride toward ordination. I look back and I am deeply grateful for the experience that I received at Salford that prepared the ground for seeds of personal growth and ministry that are now deeply rooted in Franconia Conference and Christopher Dock ministry.

Many of you know that I love the warm wind. It is like God breathing on us! The verse in John 3:8 is powerful for me as I reflect on my journey, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The experiences and people who showed up in my life helped me to feel the wind that sometimes blew as a gentle breeze and other times as a whirlwind of challenges, creating chaos and doubt. At those times people appeared in my life and modeled Jesus for me. I value the many rich experiences, holy moments and a community of faith discernment as I humbly step into ordination.

Ordination seems like a big word to be me. I have been trying to unpack this word for the last few years during my time as a licensed youth minister. A few weeks ago I talked to the chapel committee about the ordination service as we were looking at the chapel schedule. As I was explaining ordination I said “It is like being sentenced to ministry for life” And Anna Ruth said, “that sure is a negative way of looking at ordination.” You got to love it, Anna, speaking the truth in love. I realized how much this word scares me and the identity and expectation that comes with ordination. I remember as I was growing up ordained ministers (and at the time they were all men) were scary and really serious. They were suppose to have all the answers to any questions and ministers were always called on to pray at meals and in public settings. I was also scared because maybe ministry wouldn’t be fun after ordination. I guess my biggest fear is being disconnected from the people on the edge of church or those who have left organized church, because some of these people are my best friends.

Or does ordination validate my call to ministry and especially youth ministry? Does this process acknowledges my passion and gifts as I continue on this journey that God has blessed? And I am deeply grateful for women and men role models and new images of ordained ministry who are ordinary people. Many of these persons are here today. Thanks to those of you who helped me unpack the ordination word that seemed so big.

Last week I was at Princeton Seminary for their youth ministry institute. The theme for the week was community. I heard sermons, and participated in discussion about what is real community and how do we create community in youth ministry. I realized how blessed I was to be apart of this faith community. To be here with faculty and staff and to be working along side other ordained ministers in Franconia Conference. You are all in my cloud of witnesses, knowing that you have encouraged and supported me on this journey these last 8 ½years.

As I continue in youth ministry here at Dock and my role with Franconia Conference I hope that youth feel God’s unconditional love, and experience God’ grace within a faith community. And that people in our congregations and here at Dock will surround youth with love, walk with them and point the way to Christ. This journey continues and it is all about God’s timing. It is a humble journey and I am blessed to be at this place, for such a time as this!