College students prep for a lifetime of church engagement as delegates in Pittsburgh

GOSHEN, Ind. – In a time when many churches are experiencing a decline in youth membership, eight Goshen College students will have the opportunity to be engaged with the inner workings of Mennonite Church USA during the July 4-9 Delegate Assembly in Pittsburgh. The students will represent churches and conferences from five different states as they participate in delegate discussions, prepping them for a lifetime of church involvement.

For the third convention in a row, Goshen College will help finance students to attend the convention as a way to encourage them to become more involved in church life.

“We hope that our students will want to be part of the church both now and in the future,” said Bob Yoder, campus pastor. “And so we see this convention experience as a delegate as one way to expose them to the realities of how the Mennonite Church works, and to both the blessings and challenges of that work.”

One of the student delegates is Ben Baumgartner, a junior Bible and religion major who previously served as a delegate during the 2009 convention in Columbus, Ohio.

“I’m excited to meet with the other delegates and learn more about what the wider church is doing,” said Baumgartner, who will be a delegate for Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, Kan.

Beth Yoder, who will be a delegate for Oak Grove Mennonite Church in West Liberty, Ohio, said she expects this opportunity to provide her with a way to learn about how the church makes decisions on a larger scale. Yoder is a junior interdisciplinary major.

As for being one of the younger delegates, “It puts pressure on me because I’m coming from a generation different than maybe the majority of delegates, so I think they’ll be very interested in what my perspectives and opinions are,” she said. “I think on the whole my opinions will be different from theirs, so it will be interesting to see where our differences are, but where the similarities are, too.”

Though a first-time delegate, Elizabeth Speigle has been an active young person in the church, being an apprentice elder at Assembly Mennonite Church (Goshen, Ind.) for a year. Speigle graduated from Goshen College in April with a degree in sociology and will represent Central District Conference at the convention in July.

“Others have often expressed their appreciation that there are young adults like me that care about the church, so I’m hoping that those with whom I interact in the delegate assembly can share some of my excitement and passion for the future of the Mennonite Church,” said Speigle.

Five of the eight Goshen College students will serve as voting delegates for their churches or conferences, and three will participate as non-voting delegates.

The eight delegates are: Ben Baumgartner (voting), a junior Bible and religion major representing Whitestone Mennonite Church, Hesston, Kan.; Jessica Gotwals (non-voting), a junior nursing major representing Blooming Glen (Pa.) Mennonite Church; Erica Grasse (voting), a junior biology and interdisciplinary double major representing Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Blooming Glen, Pa.; Andrea Kraybill (non-voting), a senior art major representing Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Ind.; Reuben Sancken (voting), a senior Bible and religion major representing First Mennonite Church, Champaign, Ill; Elizabeth Speigle (voting), a senior sociology major representing Central District Conference, Goshen, Ind.; Ana Yoder (voting), a senior music major representing Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, Goshen, Ind.; and Beth Yoder (non-voting), a junior interdisciplinary major representing Oak Grove Mennonite Church, West Liberty, Ohio.  

– By Alysha Landis

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education,“Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report‘s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit