Welcome to the eye of the proverbial Hurricane. We over at Youth Ministries have just come off Middle School Mission Blitz (June 12 – 15), High School Mission Trip (June 19 – 24) and a fair number of ours (including Andrew Mochrie) spent less than 24 hours at home before they headed back out on the 25th for Youth Choir Tour, where they will be until June 30th. Next week we’ll have a quick intermission, and then its vacation bible school (July 10 – 14) and Camp Barnabas (July 15 – 21)!
We’re also two weeks into a renovation in the Justin to make over the confirmation room and repurpose parts of the third floor as a middle school worship space with lounge areas and rooms for small groups. Then renovation is to address current growth in our ministry as well as children’s and prepare for the added middle school youth that will be in our program because of the shortening of confirmation. We will be running two simultaneous Sunday school hours starting in September and we intend on having the renovation finished by August 8.
Given the sixth gear chaos that youth ministry can be in summer, I wanted to take a second while we have it to tell you about some of the things that have been happening, and the ways that God has been moving in and among our youth.
Middle School Mission Blitz
Middle School Mission Blitz was a huge success, we had so much fun worshipping, serving, and playing together. We partnered with amazing non-profits around town, to learn and serve with them, and had high schoolers, college students, and members of the Gathering community come hang out with us to help the youth feel connected to the church as a whole!
On the last night of the experience, we took our middle school youth to Presbyterian Night Shelter’s women’s and children’s shelter to help serve dinner and lead games for the over 100 children living in the shelter. When we arrived, it was hot, and crowded, and our youth seemed nervous and unsure. We started assigning them little tasks – pour drinks, serve desert, help people carry plates — and as they got to talking to the families, the children started asking our youth if they would come play with them.
Within half an hour, every one of our students was running around the playground with the kids who lived there, cuddling babies, drawing with sidewalk chalk, playing tag or pick-up basketball, or was helping clean up dinner with the moms inside. We did exactly zero of the planned activities we had prepared, and it was, for many of the kids and volunteers, the most meaningful part of the week. I’m a big believer that youth will basically live up to whatever expectations you establish for them, and seeing them bring joy and playfulness to the lives of kids who have not been able to play enough in their lives was a gift.
High School Mission Trip
Last week, we took around 25 of our high school youth to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to serve with a ministry called Revive225 working on homes destroyed by floods last August. Our youth had such a blast together, and I loved watching them build closer and deeper bonds with each other through serving, playing, and living as a community.
One night of the trip, we were encouraged to invite the owners of the houses we were repairing to a community crawfish boil over at a UMC church in the middle of the hard-hit community of North Baton Rouge where we were serving. Our youth popped heads off shrimp with the best of them, and after stuffing our faces, we had the opportunity to worship with the members of the community. Representatives of that church, which is predominantly African-American, as well as Revive225 told the story of the building racial tension in Baton Rouge in the month leading up to the flood, ignited by nationally-covered incidents of violence, and how the flood, even in the midst of the devastation it caused, also gave an opportunity for reconciliation, cooperation, and hope.
Their stories of resilience, reconciliation, and community were inspiring models of what the church can be at its best and I personally felt blessed to be able to hear them.
Please continue to keep the youth in your prayers as they dive into the second half of the summer, and ask the youth in your life who have been serving with us what it has meant to them!