First UMC Orange Youth lead by example
By April Canik
The Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church
Whether they are participating in a 30-hour famine or picking up trash in and around town, the youth at First UMC Orange are modeling the Christian life for others to see.
How many youth groups have a “Purpose Statement?” The youth ministry of FUMC Orange does – and it shows. Here, students strive “to be zealous about their God through a united community — not only making an effort to share the gospel with others, but to disciple others into a relationship with Christ as well.”
After reading a book called Purpose Driven Youth Ministry by Doug Fields, Randall Bridges, the Director of Youth and Christian Education, set a plan into action. He says, “Basically we make sure that everything we do has an aspect of Community, Worship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Evangelism.”
At the beginning of the year, Randall helped them create a “personal purpose statement” by having the students ponder how they might grow spiritually stronger this year. “Each of them decided what they would focus on, and found a scripture verse that expressed that quality and then painted their word on canvas. These word pictures are on display in our Family Life Center where those who worship in our contemporary service can see them each week,” he shares.
Students, such as high school junior Trent Brown who serves on the Youth Council Games Committee, are being impacted. “I like FUMC Orange youth because it truly is a family. No matter what you are going through or who you are, our youth accepts one another. Our youth group is a place you can be vulnerable and ask for prayer about anything. Leading games has been a blast this year during our CREW Sunday night program. It’s awesome to see everyone play a game I pick or make up and really enjoy it or learn from it!”
Rev. John Warren says, “During a time of transition between youth directors the Youth Council gave parents and youth more ownership of the youth ministry as the church searched for a new staff member. Randall has since grown that concept and it has blossomed under his leadership to provide a solid core program. FUMC is in the VCI process and a number of our youth are involved is several strategic areas including the visioning team, worship excellence team and communications. The input they give and the gifts they share add a depth to our work together. “
About a quarter of the active students serve in a leadership role on the Youth Council that includes a few adults as well. “Students serve on a welcome committee to follow up with guests, they help with youth worship planning and discipleship activities,” adds Randall, “and they like to be empowered to own it and generate topics, activities and themes. I guide them, but when it is their turn to lead, they ‘own’ it.” Adds Randall, “The Youth Council is vital to how successful our Youth Ministry is. Students are stepping up and leading their part each week, and learning how to grow in becoming better speakers, as well as developing leadership qualities that they can use the rest of their lives.”
By assigning a key word and spiritual concept as the driving force behind all of their activities – the youth ‘calendar’ has an added dimension of significance. “For example, since we learn much differently by doing than listening, in May, our students are participating in the national poverty simulation called the 30-Hour Famine,” he explains. Through special challenges, inspirational discussions and an unforgettable no-eat overnighter, youth groups fast together and raise funds to fight hunger. “We are even talking about making houses out of boxes to experience the feeling of homelessness,” he adds.
Active youth, 6th-12th grades, enjoy a meal and fellowship time together every week at Wednesday Night Live where the younger members of the youth group attend Confirmation classes while the older ones experience a class called The Best Year Ever where they learn a new discipline of how to live more Christ-like each week. Both classes share in a time of reflection and prayer. WNL is geared to stimulate personal enrichment, spiritual growth and build maturing disciples for all ages. “At CREW (Christians Ready, Equipped and Willing) on Sunday nights, the youth join in fellowship over a meal time, worship and prayer time in the chapel, skits or videos made by students to introduce the lesson, a lesson, small group time, and games,” Randall shares.
Parents of youth involved at FUMC Orange are very supportive of the ministry in that they see how the events strive to provide youth opportunities in Evangelism, Christian Leadership, Fellowship, that help young people connect with God and learn more about the Wesleyan expression of Christianity.
Student mom and youth group volunteer Angela Abshire says, “The youth group at FUMC is a blessing to our personal family as well as our church family. They are the most dedicated, faithful, and hard-working group of young people, and they have servants’ hearts that inspire us all. As a parent, I am thankful our church provides many opportunities for spiritual growth as well as leadership opportunities for our teens.”
Whether young people are taking cookies to local firemen, participating in a local mission’s project to enhance an outdoor space for residents at a nursing home, or heading to summer camps centered around service and life changing worship, FUMC Orange is investing in the young at all age levels. Children’s ministry leaders at FUMC Orange pursue creative expression as well. Youngsters are currently prepping for a musical about some of the greatest kings of Israel, including Jesus, the King of Kings, and families are participating in a “Design a Robot Contest” for the upcoming Vacation Bible School Theme, “Maker Fun Factory.”