2012 Youth report
In February, Ken Taylor left the position of Northern Light Youth Director. Ariel Lyon assumed the interim position and served until June. During her tenure, the senior high youth group met on Sunday evenings and Wednesday evening programming was held for elementary and middle school young people in conjunction with Holy Trinity Episcopal. The Wednesday evening program ended in the summer after Holy Trinity decided to cease holding its Wednesday evening suppers at NLUC. In June, NLUC youth took a mission trip to Hoonah to work with the Senior Center and the Presbyterian Church.
During the spring, Phil Campbell collaborated with the pastors of the Douglas Community and Aldersgate United Methodist Churches to develop an internship that would bring a seminary student to Juneau to work with the youth from the three churches. In August, Allyn Steele, a Vanderbilt Divinity School Student, arrived to lead the cooperative youth program during his internship year, and his report follows.
Cooperative Youth Program 2012 Report
The Cooperative Youth Program youth group with Aldersgate UMC and Douglas Community UMC (referred to as DNA by the youth) has met weekly since September 09, 2012. Approximately 15-20 youth come to our weekly gatherings, including young people who are invited by regular church-going youth. To date, 7 non-church going youth have participated in the youth group activities, one of whom comes at least every other week.
Curriculum, Community Building & Project Work
The primary goal of the youth group has been to build community and leadership amongst youth who participate in the weekly gatherings, while also creating room for new participants who might choose to be a part of the group.
The youth group is engaging in a basic frame of discussion on the following topics: Creation, the Other, and the Self. For our unit on Creation, the group spent time reflecting on the biblical questions related to the various ways to interpret the responsibility human beings have to be stewards to God’s Creation. As an aid, we dissected a film called “The Story of Stuff,” which helped spark a generative discussion about the ways in which youth interface with media and consumer culture.
During the month of December, the youth group spent more time in “fun” activities, particularly during the weeks in which they were out of school. This included a group screening of The Hobbit, a Christmas Party with Caroling Activities in Douglas, and, an overnight lock-in at NLUC during which youth raised close to $600.00 in pledges to purchase PET devices, which will be sent to Guatemala with an Alaska UMC delegation this summer. The lock-in also offered a time to engage in different models of worship, from a guided Lectio Divina study on Luke 2:41-52 to a sunrise Taizé meditation service.
The lock-in fundraiser functioned as a transition into our second “unit,” which will ask questions about the moral and ethical implications of Christ’s message for our relationship to “Others.” Five youth will travel with Allyn to the Alaska UMC Youth Immersion Service Summit on January 18-21; other youth will support Aldersgate’s Love, Inc. commitments on January 20th. Until Easter, we will use other experiential education activities to reflect on questions like: What is socio-economic justice? What responses to economic inequity do our congregations support, and how can we contribute? Where do we see this in Juneau-Douglas, and what is our responsibility as young people of faith?
After Easter, Allyn’s goal is to encourage youth to think critically about “the Self,” which, with parental/adult support and feedback, will include intentional questions about how we talk about the Body, self-care, healthy and life-giving decision-making, and relationships. Allyn intends to make the curriculum for these weeks age-appropriate. Allyn will draw support from the community education practitioner at Planned Parenthood, whose primary responsibility is working with teens and families on values-based decision-making.
Support from each participating congregation has been substantial. Beyond the existing resources (office, budget, automobile, housing, stipend, etc.), pastors and members from each congregation have made themselves and their resources regularly available. Mike Barnhill deserves special mention. He is the head cook for weekly youth gatherings. Thanks, Mike! Additionally, the lock-in would not have been possible without the support of Peggy Barnhill and John Doogan, who agreed to serve as overnight “hosts.”
Significant contributions have come from Alisha Saulnier, who attends NLUC. She has helped coordinate every weekly gathering and regularly offers insights into youth dynamics that Allyn may not see. She also leads the Sunday morning high school class at NLUC. She effectively serves as the NLUC weekly youth coordinator that NLUC had advertised in the late summer. She does not take compensation, which is tied to her religious views. Regarding the sustainability of this cooperative program, Alisha intends to leave Juneau in or around July. Allyn feels that a paid position might still need to be on the table for NLUC, after Alisha’s departure. The support a second person has provided has been invaluable, and investing in that support is still a wise budgetary consideration. Alternative means of recruiting support, however, could come out of a more intentional conversation with UAS student affairs personnel who might know of students that might want work experience in youth education. Allyn is happy to move on that recruitment if requested to do so.
Youth Ministry vs. Youth Group
In addition to organizing an overarching curriculum and activities for a weekly gathering, Allyn has begun building relationships with other youth-serving and/or public sector organizations in Juneau, including Planned Parenthood, AWARE, the Choice program, NAMI, the Suicide Prevention Coalition, and KTOO, and several different public health and community planning processes. This approach offers the Cooperative a chance to serve as a resource to other youth-serving organizations (both the workers and the youth) when it comes to intersectional matters of faith, culture, and youth issues. We will ensure the sustainability of these relationships by inviting one or two members from the Juneau youth-services community to sit on the CYP Advisory Group.