For TMC vice-president Joe Keller, the servant leadership retreat at Thousand Pines Christian Camp in the San Bernardino Mountains had a very specific purpose.

“Everything we do is spiritual and I want us to have that mindset,” he said to the approximately 150 student leaders preparing to leave for the annual retreat. “I want us to be leaders on campus who see ourselves as spiritual people because understanding who we are shapes how we live.”

The retreat took place from Aug. 12-15.

Attendees were members of the servant leadership staff (SLS). They are the TMC sophomores, juniors and seniors who have been chosen to serve in leadership roles on campus – many as dormitory residence assistants (RAs) and some as college-sponsored missions Go Team leaders.

SLS members are the “boots on the ground” in the school’s commitment to expose students to the life-on-life discipleship exemplified by Christ and the Apostles. For the 2013--2014 school year, they will serve as disciplers and small group leaders, prayer partners and biblical counselors. They are there to help fellow students navigate the social and academic rigors of college life.

With the arrival of the school’s incoming freshman mere days away, SLS members used the retreat as a launching pad for the ministry that will begin the moment those new students (and their parents) step onto campus. An important component of the SLS retreat is preparing student staff to help TMC freshmen make the transition to life on campus.

And so for four days, SLS members received leadership training in specific areas such as knowing how to ask questions and how to listen, how to confront sin with humility, how to help students resolve conflicts and how to lead with love.

“God isn’t glorified if we try to lead without love,” said longtime SLS staff member and TMC director of admissions, John Melcon. Melcon led a session during the retreat where students discussed the principles of Alexander Strauch’s book, Leading with Love, which they were assigned to read over the summer.

Pete Bargas, TMC’s associate dean of student life programs, taught a session on being and empathetic listener, taking students into the Book of Job. By looking at the right – and wrong – approaches taken by Job’s friends as they responded to his trials, students learned valuable lessons about how to come alongside others in a way that honors God.

“Patience and humility are the anchors of asking good questions,” he told them. “Asking good questions is hard work. It’s tiring. But hopefully you will start thinking of discipleship as a life-long process.”

Bargas, who is himself a graduate of The Master’s College, knows firsthand the important role students play in creating the atmosphere that makes campus a special place to grow into adulthood. He understands that the retreat – really the entire SLS experience – represents the kind of training that makes their education at The Master’s College unique. It is training aimed at teaching them how to love and serve others by following the biblical model for leadership. It is an experience that, alongside what they learn in the classroom, forms the twin pillars of an education at The Master’s College.

“We want our students to understand that when our new students come to campus, we want to do everything we can to serve them,” Bargas said. “So at the retreat we talk about Scripture. We talk about what it means to be a student at The Master’s College. We teach them to love the new students. We teach them about being selfless. That’s what it means to be a servant leader at this college.”

Keller, who oversaw the event, was pleased with the results. A couple of days into the event, he reiterated the reason he and the students were there.

“When we leave here, our real goal is that our students are prepared and ready to do nothing else but to live out the Christian life in a distinctively biblical way,” he said. “It’s really when our students are living that way that it transforms the culture.”