Tag Archives: Junior High Late Night Blast

Journeying In Faith

By Steve Kriss, Executive Minister, and Mary Nitzsche, Associate Executive Minister

Brent, Danilo and Mike

As Conference Youth Minister John Stoltzfus completed six years in that role with Franconia Conference in July, he stated, “As a conference we need to continue to ask the question of how we are passing on the faith and work of the church to the next generation. How are we doing as a church in modeling a self-giving faith centered in Jesus Christ? We will need to place our trust and hope in a revealing God who has been faithful for many generations. We trust that the same Spirit that is at work in our lives will continue to live and move in our children and the next generation of the gathered body of Christ.”

The reality of congregational and conference youth ministry is changing. Conference has been aware of this. Two years ago the Board invited a taskforce to review how conference equips youth ministers, leaders and the youth. John was a part of this process. The task force results and recommendations should be available in the next months.

In August, John and his wife Paula relocated to Harrisonburg, VA where Paula began a pastoral role at Park View Mennonite Church.  Before leaving, John helped to develop an interim plan for continuing Conference youth ministry. Recognizing that youth ministry requires the work of many, three youth pastors have volunteered to serve in the following roles for the next school year: Brent Camilleri, associate pastor of Deep Run East, is assuming leadership for facilitating the ongoing monthly youth pastor gathering; Mike Ford, pastor of youth at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, is coordinating the Spring Junior High Late Night Blast; Danilo Sanchez, associate pastor of Whitehall and co-pastor of Ripple, will continue to serve on Mennonite Church USA Youth Ministry Council and be a liaison to the denomination.

Conference is grateful for the willingness and readiness of Danilo, Mike and Brent, who bring long histories of service and leadership in our Conference to carry extra responsibilities over the next months ensuring our youth and their leaders continue to be supported and equipped. This interim arrangement gives Conference time to continue the review process and discernment before making any long-term decisions regarding Conference youth ministry.  We value your prayers for continued discernment in next steps as we together imagine Conference-wide youth ministry into the future that is rooted in our shared Anabaptist values and carries out our shared priorities of (trans)formation that is both missional and intercultural in the way of Christ’s peace.

Are We Ready to Listen?

By John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Minister

I wonder if the Biblical story of Samuel and Eli provides a glimpse of the need for the intergenerational witness of the church community. In Eli, we have the elder who knows that God has spoken in the past and holds the treasured words of response when God does speak. In Samuel, we have the young whose ears are open to the new words of God and can speak them courageously. Samuel needed Eli and Eli needed Samuel. In their relationship a door was opened to hear and understand the voice of God more clearly.

On Friday, March 16, close to 150 youth and adults representing Conference churches from Allentown to Philadelphia and in between, came together. They gathered together in worship and fun for the annual Junior High Late Night Blast. They played intense games of dodgeball, soccer, bubble soccer and the ever popular gaga pit.

During worship, Dan Occhiogrosso shared a message through story and basketball about how God is calling each of us to offer our gifts and whole selves in service to God. Everyone was in rapt attention as he shared his story of committing his life to God while demonstrating this through some crazy basketball dribbling skills.

Recognizing that they have something to offer the church, our youth were given the opportunity to write responses to three questions throughout the evening:

  1. What is awesome about your church?
  2. If you were a pastor, how would you encourage teenagers to grow in faith?
  3. What change do you hope to see in the church in the next 10 years?

Here are a sampling of their responses:

My church is awesome because … we have people from all over the world; everyone is supportive and loving; we welcome all people, care for them and make them feel at home; we are Christ’s hands and feet; we stay together even though we face obstacles.

If I was pastor … I would create more ministry gatherings besides Sunday mornings; I would encourage them to show love through their actions, meet new people and share God’s love; I would encourage teens to do big things in the community to show God’s love; I would make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.

In ten years I hope my church … becomes more multicultural; grows more followers that love Jesus; goes out into areas that need God’s love and healing; has more children and teens involved.

Are we listening to the Samuels in our midst? Are we open to listening? How are we listening to and investing in the next generation? What might they have to say about how God is moving the church into the future?