When I dismissed our teenagers on Sunday morning, I realized that this would be the last time that they were in the building until 2018. Youth Staff is around the office, pulling together details for Revolution Weekend, but for the teenagers, we’re done until January. Because of the timing of Revolution Weekend (January 13th-15th) the confirmation of our sixth-graders (January 28th), and the move to a new Sunday school structure (February 4th) – there is no natural break in our rhythm of programming and time to reflect on where we’ve come and where we’re going.
So here’s me trying to squeeze a little in.
We started this year with Revolution Weekend 2017: Hide and Seek, and took around 50 of our teenagers out to Glen Lake to spend some time talking about all the ways that we hide from God and that God seeks us.
We spent the spring honing our basketball skills, as our very own Fighting Penguins had their best season in 3 years, with a record of 1-5. That is not a joke. This really was the first time we had won a game in a while. The Fighting Penguins continued to lead the league in enthusiasm and cheering section, due no small part to our amazing parents, and Ainsley Bond in a penguin costume.
We re-capped the school year and sent off our seniors with love at Youth Banquet and Senior Recognition, where we cried and laughed and took lots of pictures, gave out Justees (the annual youth ministry awards) and sent off everyone into the summer.
The second week of June our Middle School youth moved into the Justin for four days to work at local missions and non-profits (like Union Gospel Mission, the Women and Children’s Shelter, Tarrant Area Food Bank’s Learning Garden, the Polytechnic campus of United Community Centers, and our own First Street Methodist Mission)! They played games and worshipped together and grew in relationship with Christ and with each other.
The very next week, our High School youth headed out to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where they partnered with a local non-profit to help families effected by flooding rebuild and recover. They worshipped and hung out and slept in a gym and hung dry-wall, and got to build memories together as they served.
The very next week after that, our Cornerstone Youth Choir headed out to Colorado Springs for their choir tour. They sang at nursing homes and went rock-climbing and had fun together! After choir tour, was Vacation Bible school, where around 80 teenagers volunteered to help execute a wonderful Hero-filled experience for over 700 elementary students!
Then of course was Camp Barnabas. A group of our High School youth headed out to Missouri, where they were paired one-on-one with children with disabilities to show them the love of Christ and give them as normal a camp experience as possible. The week, as always, was transformative to the teenagers who participated, and to me and all of us adults who got to witness teenagers love selflessly and give themselves fully to others.
As we kicked back into the school year, the pace continued! We had Youth Sunday August 27th, the theme was True North, and we talked about what it means to follow God, our True North as we navigate our lives. The celebration was tinged with the bittersweet-ness of our former Youth Ministries Director announcing that he would be moving to be closer to family ahead of the birth of his first child.
September 10th we kicked off Sunday School and our evening programming, The Refuge, for the semester, with a big down-town scavenger hunt. The very next week, September 17th, we hosted a baby shower/goodbye party for the Mochries, with well over 100 people showing up to wish them well and give hugs goodbye.
Two weeks later, in early October, we took a group of Middle School youth out to Lyle Lodge for our middle school retreat! Our theme was Messy/Perfect and we talked about the amazing truth that we really are a mess and Jesus really does love us. We finger painted and played games and confessed our messiness, and pointed out the perfection, in each other.
In November, we held our annual High School Retreat, and a group of our older teenagers headed out to Lyle to learn about koinania or what it means to be with and for each other as a Christian Community. We talked and worshipped and cried and washed each other’s feet in a celebration of all the work that God has done in building this family of friends and siblings in Christ.
We also got a special opportunity in November to go to the Presbyterian Night Shelter’s Women and Children’s shelter, and we served dinner and played games with the families living there.
This first week of December, we held our big Christmas party, this year with a Frost and Flannel theme. We ate dinner, made s’mores and hot chocolate, played silly reindeer games (MCed by Rev. Lance Marshall), and had a big White Elephant gift exchange! It was a delightful, chaotic, exuberant way to wrap up our Sunday evening festivities!
Finally, we celebrated Advent by focusing on going small. We’ve been telling simple stories and doing hands-on service projects every week, including making Christmas presents for the local homeless community, prepping bags for the Food4Kids program, and putting together 2,500 candles for our Christmas eve services!
I could tell you 10,000 more stories about all that the joys and sorrows, victories and losses, this year has held, all the individual teenagers and adults that whose own personal stories of growth, change, heartbreak, and hope have made all the things we do worth it. I encourage you to check out all the blogs linked to in this article if you want to learn more about anything, and to ask the teenagers in your life about what this year has meant to them!
Thanks for being with us this far, have a very Merry Christmas, and keep us in your prayers, because Revolution Weekend 2018 is just around the corner!