Youth group supports students’ relationship with God

(Photo by Lexi Rose)
Sophomore Debi Schmidt performs “Burning In My Soul” by Matt Maher during youth group on March 8. Schmidt and sophomores Jasmine Bates and William Weiner help lead the Wednesday night worship service.

For many at Sterling High School, religion is a foothold used to shape students’ lives. Students at SHS have the opportunity to be involved in multiple religious youth organizations.

“Our mission statement is ‘Making Christ-like disciples for the transformation of the world,’” First United Methodist Church Pastor of youth and young adults Jeff Darnauer said.

Churches like Crosspoint and FUMC host Wednesday night youth group for junior high and high school students. They provide an outlet strictly for youth to be encouraged in their faith.

“I do think it’s important for people, youth especially, to gather,” FUMC Worship Leader Heather Oden said.

FUMC extends its efforts in hopes to spread the Word and help introduce a relationship between youth and God, but overall they strive to be a place that supports the youth.

“They face different challenges than young children and adults face. Meeting together to learn and worship is really important,” Oden said.

Many teens concur with Oden’s statement.

(Photo by Lexi Rose)
Sophomores Debi Schmidt, McKiah San Miguel, and Jasmine Bates listen to huddles leader Heather Oden speak about what having a relationship with Christ might look like during youth group on March 1.

“I get to connect with the girls around me and listen to the hard, fun, and happy times they have. I also get their opinions on the problems I face,” freshman Kidist Wilson said.

There are many different ways people can connect with God, and both Crosspoint and FUMC youth groups intend to have an outlet for each individual.

“We have game time, praise and worship singing time, and both large group and small group times,” Oden said. “We want to make sure each kid that’s attending has multiple opportunities to connect with God.”

Youth are even involved in the worship-leading process.

“God has obviously blessed me with musical talent,” sophomore Jasmine Bates said. “I like being able to use my talents to help lead others. It’s God through me.”

Darnauer, accompanied by Oden and Youth Director Tana Day, plan the lessons for Wednesday night youth group and strives to cover general areas involving youth and God.

“Currently we are using a youth curriculum called XP3 by Think Orange,” he said. “The XP stands for experience and the 3 stands for the three areas we’re trying to help students experience growth: wonder for who God is, discovery of who He created them to be, and passion for loving others. Based on these weekly Bible-based lessons, Tana, Heather, myself, and our other leaders create the elements of the night to go along with it.”

There are numerous aspects that go into a typical Wednesday night youth group at FUMC.

“At the end of each Connection, we split into age and gender specific huddles (small groups) so students can go deeper in conversation with those who are similar to them in the things they are dealing with,” Darnauer said. “It’s a place where they can get to know an adult leader/mentor or two on a much deeper level and have another adult in their life to lean on for support and encouragement when they need it.”

Though it may seem like the work put into weekly meeting may be extensive, Darnauer strongly believes it’s worthwhile.

(Photo by Lexi Rose)
The First United Methodist youth group gathers during the beginning worship service. “Worship is such a big part of our youth group because a lot of kids connect with God through singing,” FUMC Worship Leader Heather Oden said.

“Teenagers are learning how to become adults, which means they are learning how to know who they are, how to become independent, self-supporting adults, and how to find supportive friends and community to help them on this road to maturity,” he said. “So in the world of developing their faith in Jesus Christ, we want to give students a space to do that as well.”

The extensive work put into youth group has proved to be beneficial in providing an outlet for children in all areas of spiritual growth.

“There are really great leaders there that help with life problems and it’s really nice to have people like that around you,” junior Taya Wilson said. “I attend youth group because it’s a great time to focus on God and, at the same time, be around other believers.”