Appling presents at LEAD Wisconsin

Maranatha Hosts LEAD Wisconsin

“Leaders are born in awkward moments of silence. It’s not about saying, ‘what are we going to do next?’ It’s about saying, ‘what are we going to do?’”  

As I listened to the LEAD Wisconsin director share her vision for the young people who chose to spend one of their last weeks of summer at a leadership camp, I was reminded that every single person has a desire to make a difference. Whether it’s the introvert mustering the courage to voice his opinion or the extrovert actively looking for opportunities to insert her plans for change, everyone wants to influence their corner of the world.  

LEAD Wisconsin offers teenagers the opportunity to be mentored in leadership and have hands-on experience for a week. This camp aims to open the eyes of the campers to leadership opportunities all around them.  

What is LEAD Wisconsin? 

The LEAD camp concept was developed 25 years ago in Michigan and over the last 10 years has spread to Minnesota and Iowa. LEAD is comprised of seven tracks – one track that all campers take their first year and six that returning campers can choose from. These seven tracks are House, Senate, Media, Business, Moot Court, Mock Trial, and Campaign. 

LEAD Wisconsin exists to equip “teens to become effective godly leaders who engage the culture from a Biblical perspective” and was established by the Wisconsin Family CouncilSummer 2021 was Wisconsin’s first in-person LEAD camp which was hosted by Maranatha Baptist University from August 1 through August 6. 

LEAD is an acronym for Learn, Empower, Act, and Discover. Nichols and her team developed a tiered approach to teaching leadership to their campers. “The heart of LEAD Wisconsin is first, [for the campers] to build a relationship with the Lord,” SharaLee Nichols, Director of LEAD Wisconsin shares. Developing a biblical worldview and learning to be a godly leader are the next two tiers.  

“You can’t be a godly leader if you don’t have a biblical worldview or a relationship with the Lord.” Nichols continues, “We do equip them to become effective citizens, involved in civics and the government. You can’t do that unless you are a godly leader, unless you have a biblical worldview, unless you have a relationship with the Lord.” 

The LEAD Experience 

All 80 campers at LEAD Wisconsin participated in the House track. On day one, each camper was sworn in as a representative, assigned to one of five committees, and assigned to one of two caucuses within that committee. At the end of the week, each caucus debated a bill with the other caucus in their committee.  

Nichols and her team lined up an all-star cast of speakers that included political activist Charlie Kirk, founder, and president of Turning Point USA; apologist Carl Kerby, founder of Reasons for Hope and DeBunked; motivational speaker Toni McFadden, founder of Relationships Matter; Justice Daniel Kelly, a former member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court; Julaine Appling, president of the Wisconsin Family Council; and Rebecca Kleefisch, president of the 1848 Project and former Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin among others.  

Campers had the opportunity to visit the Capitol twice during the week of LEAD Wisconsin. The goal in taking the campers to the Capitol was to make the government real; make it approachable. Nichols shared that the meet and greet with Wisconsin legislators and staffers was a profitable time for the campers.  

“They represented LEAD Wisconsin well, but more importantly, represented Christ well,” she stated.  

But LEAD Wisconsin is about more than civics and studying the government.  

Throughout the week, campers had sessions on worldview, marriage and sexuality, race, creation, and social media’s impact on our culture. “LEAD Wisconsin is not afraid to be controversial and counter-cultural,” Nichols asserted. “We aren’t afraid to talk about God’s design for race or sexuality. These are real issues that are facing our teens.” 

The LEAD Impact 

So why should a young person take advantage of attending LEAD Wisconsin?  

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for young people to develop their leadership skills,” Nichols said. LEAD Wisconsin gives young people the space to think critically, work with their hands, and analyze culture from a biblical worldview.  

“We want [campers] to be leaders in the church, their homes, and their workforce,” Nichols shared. “We want campers to leave knowing the Lord; knowing that He loves them and desires an intimate relationship with them; knowing that He has a destiny for their lives. He has called them to something much greater and much higher than the world will ever tell them they’re capable of. We want them to know their full potential and be equipped to step into that.” 

On Tuesday evening, Dr. Matthew Davis, CEO of Maranatha, took some time to challenge the teens: “Now more than ever, we need champions for Christ. We need young people who know what they’re about, who can defend their faith and are willing to take a stand. The night is dark; the time is short; the mission is urgent.” 

“Young people, I think that you have a destiny,” Rebecca Kleefisch stated in her address to the young people. “You have been called for a time such as this. I am positive that if you persevere, if you pursue Christ and your destiny and work to do God’s will every day, that you will deepen and build your character. You will offer hope not only to your friends and family but to this fallen world.”  

“Somebody needs to capture the hearts of the next generation and if it’s not us, society and the media will,” Nichols stressed. “We want the voice of the Lord to speak louder than the voice of this world.” 


For more information on LEAD Wisconsin, and to register for next year, click here.