by Mary Lou Cummings, Perkasie, firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s face it, teenagers like to hang out in groups—and the more kids in the group, the better.
So what is a church to do when its life rhythms produce periods with small teenage populations? Perkasie and Plains congregations are creatively working together to provide lots of new experiences for their junior youth by pooling their programs.
Two years ago Plains had a handful of junior high girls and only a few boys. Perkasie had four boys. One of the boys from Perkasie, however, attended Plains activities and several knew each other at school. Eventually Dale Gahman of Perkasie, mentor for the boys, and Pastor Dawn Ranck, who oversees “the younger half” of the Plains congregation, got together to brainstorm how to work together.
The groups clicked right away. Now the two groups meet together for fun experiences most months, and they bring their friends—with about 15 or more showing up. They have gone hiking to Hawk Mountain and have picked and donated to Manna on Main Street and FISH organizations. They have attended an Iron Pigs baseball game, bowled, and gone on a scavenger hunt looking for disguised adult friends. There are plans for a service day at Ten Thousand Villages in Lancaster followed by a camp-out. All agree that it is a lot more fun to do these things with more people.
The two groups still reserve some months for their own separate activities. Each congregation provides adults who share in the leadership. Ranck initiates a twice-a-year meeting in her home for the leaders to sketch out the year’s activities and then creates flyers of each event for the kids and parents.
“I wanted to provide experiences for these young people that would be lots of fun, but would also stretch them–help them meet new people, and do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do,” says Gahman. “We try to include service projects in the planning. It’s great to see the kids having fun and liking the group.”
“One of the great things,” says Ranck, “is that by alternating the planning, sometimes leaders are able to just ‘show up’ and enjoy the kids. It’s working well and I think it is a good model for others to try.”