This year is an exciting year for youth ministries at Grande Prairie Church of Christ as many experiences and dynamics have shaped how we are moving ahead. This is now my third year as the Director of Youth Ministries and I couldn’t be more thrilled about where we are and where we’re going. Through this article I want to invite you on a short journey to enter into the history and the vision for our Youth Ministries. So now’s a good time to grab a hot beverage and find a comfy place to rest for a moment!
Let’s go back in time…
When I arrived in Grande Prairie to begin working here, Alan (our senior minister) was maintaining a weekly Jr. high youth gathering by offering devotionals, a time for kids to connect and have a bit of fun. Young Life was also in the mix, with a number of our members serving as volunteer leaders in this ministry that reaches out to the kids in the high schools. We had partnered with Young Life to provide a space for our Sr. high youth to connect and serve at during a time when our youth ministry was going through a transition. This partnership was put in place for two main reasons; So that Young Life would have a church community they could attract leaders from encourage kids to connect in, and so that we would have a place for our Sr. high kids to attend faith-based and age-appropriate activities and serve their friends. The ministry of Young Life and our volunteer leaders were influential in the lives of many our Sr. high youth when we didn’t have a church program for them to attend and to this day we are grateful for everything.
After my first year of feeling out the youth ministry here at GP Church of Christ and maintaining the existing vision, I started a series of meetings with parents and invested adults that met all summer long to discuss the history of the past and dream about the future of youth ministry. This guided discussion led us into a new ministry idea called the “Café Experiment”. The vision of this experiment was intergenerational connection – that everyone would gather together WITH our youth and children in order to do ministry and grow in relationships as a church family. The youth ministry team started to lay the groundwork and unveiled the “Cafe” idea to the board followed by a kickoff in September 2014. There was a lot of excitement around the “Cafe Experiment” and many families came and were changed by God through the people involved in this ministry platform. Generally speaking many of our youth (particularly Jr. high students) had a different perspective: that although this was a good experience they really craved a ministry that was specifically designed for them and their peers. Our response to their ongoing requests was to end the “Experiment” in the spring and return to a “traditional style” of Youth Ministry for May & June 2015. During this “Cafe Experiment” time we maintained our partnership with Young Life and continued to encourage our Sr. high youth to attend Young Life activities as well as the “Cafe”, dependant on where they found their “best fit”.
Now bringing you into the present…
The youth ministries team has spent most of our efforts since May 2014 revamping our youth program into what we believe will meet the needs of our youth – both Jr. & Sr. high students as I have decided to bring back a formal Sr. high component to youth ministries in our church. For this school year we have constructed a new ministry plan called “RELATE” that is completely about relationships; we exist to do everything in relationship with each other towards Christ. It’s founded on who we see ourselves to be as a church and directly responding to the needs of our youth. The ministry will have a more traditional style of youth ministry with weekly gatherings and big events for outreach and big group adventures, however, the emphasis will focus on relationships (more like what our Sr. high students experienced in the ministry of Young Life). Leaders will be asked to not just be leaders on youth nights, but involved in the lives of kids. Leaders will be connecting with other leaders and involved in each others lives. All who participate in “RELATE” will build relationships and move together towards a deeper relationship with Christ both through the program and in our “everyday” life. In order for us to be able to meet this goal for a close relational dynamic, we have recruited ten new youth leaders to work with our kids. We did this because we felt that to effectively journey with youth closely there couldn’t be time gaps in the youth ministry that would keep them from a relational connection with our church community.
The decision to revamp our youth ministries and rebrand as “RELATE” does alter our partnership with Young Life in that Young Life is no longer our main ministry for Sr. high students, but this change will give us the opportunity to more specifically mentor our youth through their adolescent years and -we hope- free up Grande Prairie Young Life to refocus on reaching the unchurched teens they are called to minister to. Our church continues to formally support the ministry of Young Life through our Missions Committee and our youth ministries team will encourage and support any of our teens who choose to participate in Young Life to help reach kids in their schools who need Jesus, but our church will be moving forward this year with a blended Jr & Sr. high youth ministry. Unless otherwise advertised, our youth activities will take place at our Mission Heights site on Thursday evenings from 7-9pm.
Wow! What a ride!
Hopefully this isn’t too confusing for those who have walked with us through all this change, but if it you have any questions at all, you are more than welcome to pop by the office or send an email and we can get together for a coffee. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope it has left you feeling informed and excited for what is to come!