Church, in January 2012, I was in the middle of my 7th year as youth director at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. Now, UDLC had been through some pretty big changes in 2011. The first was a building expansion program that allowed for more meeting spaces and a way for members to gather after worship and enjoy each others company. The second was the fact that Pastor Douglass retired.
These both are important, but the reason I tell you about them is because YOUTH were big parts of both of these things. In, 2011 during the winter a few teenagers got together with Andrew McMaster and made some UDLC History when they created a song that would be brought out again at Pastor Douglass’s retirement celebration.
In 2011, there were the annual trips; SEPA Sr. High Youth Gathering, Appalachia Service Project, Laser Tag, and even a rescheduled camping trip for the Tweens. There were also new things the youth brought to the congregation. A youth band, two Christmas musical celebrations (thanks to Music and Christian Ed), increased involvement in Chosen 300, and all of the ministries at UDLC. However, the most exciting thing is a visible presence on Sunday’s and at church events. The youth have gone from the children of the congregations members to “members” involved in all areas. Cheryl Rozinski is a High School Sr. who is finishing a term on council. Melanie Fry, Kendall Couch, and Marissa Irizarry have become the go to youth for child care for Couple Relationship Club and Financial Peace University. You will find a few youth serving as assistant ministers, running power point of videos during worship, crucifers, and acolytes. We even have youth preachers on Youth Sunday and you can find many teens in Sunday school each week. I know this is nothing surprising, until I report they are not students, but rather teachers for younger students.
Youth have also worked to be some of UDLC’s best and most active friends on Facebook. In 2011, UDLC has taken on Social Media more intentionally and the influx of web presence has allowed teens to identify with UDLC publicly and that in itself is a big shift. Teens post photos of events, will talk to each other, make plans to meet at Church Sunday mornings, and check in on each other when someone was missing that week. What more can you want from a Youth Ministry than a community of young people being involved in a church, identifying with the church community, and inviting others to come? Maybe as adults we should take a lesson or two from them?
In past years I had told you about members coming to me and telling me wonderful things about our youth. You may also remember for the past few years I have asked people to tell the youth and you know what? People have started to tell the youth directly. Now I am not saying this alone has increased interest and involvement of our teens, but I am sure it has helped. They feel validated and welcome to many places they had not before. Can I, youth director, take credit? Not really, but one of my goals was to take youth from “EVENTS” for teens, to an infusion of the youth in the church ministries at large and this is what we see happening now.
In 2012, we will have an Appalachia trip, we will go to ELCA Senior High Youth Gathering (with 30,000+ other youth), our lock-ins, but an exciting new event will be 30 hour hunger awareness fundraiser in March. This will be in cooperation with global mission to raise money and awareness for hunger world wide.
One other new part of the youth ministry is a new program dreamed up by and chaired by Chris Couch. This program “Helping Hands of UDLC” would be an extension of youth ministry and supported by volunteers from the church. Adult team members will evaluate small jobs and teams of youth and adults (similar to ASP) will work on local projects one Saturday per month. Funding for projects would be raised by free will donations from those benefiting from the acts of service and other funds raised by this ministry.
This new program is not only a way for UDLC to give back to the community more locally, but it is will be a way to help our member begin a more direct intergenerational program and take the skills youth are learning on the summer mission trip and improve them, develop new ones, and learn some life skills that will benefit them and the communities they will live in as they grow.
With so much happening this year, it is hard to imagine what 2013 will bring, but I am sure there will be plenty of to report on then as more youth talents are discovered and nourished.
Director of Youth Ministry