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Having a cold blast at Winter Connection

By: Rev. John Britt, Rev. Jeff Lathrop, and Maycee Johnson, Plankinton UMC freshman

At Winter Connection 2023, an annual Dakotas UMC Youth event held at three sites around our Conference, we asked some of the leaders and youth to tell us about their event in their own words. Here are descriptions from the simultaneous Rapid City, SD, and Madison, SD events.


Rev. John Britt wrote about Rapid City's event: 

Matthew Bader speaks to youth

Matthew Bader, Youth Ministry Coordinator at Canyon Lake UMC, speaks to the youth gathered in Rapid City on January 27th.

Friday began with registration and hanging out in the gym. We gathered up at 7pm and did a couple “get to know you” games. We played three more games, which the kids loved, with lots of smiles and laughter throughout.

Rapid City President Hats

Youth distributed hats and mittens for people in need by hanging them on statues in downtown Rapid City.

Worship was very good on Friday. We only got through about a third of what was prepared, but we had good discussion with the youth. The four of us from CCYM [Conference Council on Youth Ministry] sat in a row up front and co-lead the discussion and interaction. Saturday morning, we made 46 tie dye t-shirts to give to the women and children's home, as well as 64 fleece hat/scarf sets. We placed 43 on the president statues in downtown RC and the other 21 we'll give to the women and children's home. We went ice skating in the afternoon. This too was great fun!

One of our youths brought a friend. Our guest's mom checked in with her via text Friday night to see how things were going. She told her mom she'd never had so much fun at church– a great report from a first-time guest!

Rev. Jeff Lathrop checked in from the Bismarck, ND location:

Winter Connection 2023 in Bismarck began Friday night with some fun activities in the gym and youth room of McCabe UMC. Later, the youth and their youth leaders gathered in the sanctuary for some large group processing about the challenges facing God’s call and the real-life struggles with distractions, peer pressure, feelings of inadequacies, fears, and doubts.

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Youth in Bismarck used gym space to play some games.

Then we joined together for worship and heard from Michelle Kroger, who challenged the youth to consider tangible ways they could show the love of Jesus with others in various contexts: home, school, and at work. Throughout the message the youth were given some time to discuss specific scenarios to work through as groups and shared some of their thoughts on possible solutions or approaches. After worship, the youth enjoyed some evening snacks and played more games until it was time for "lights out!"

The next morning, the youth enjoyed a continental breakfast complete with pop tarts, muffins, donuts, fruit, and juice. After breakfast the youth gathered to make tie-blankets for Project Ignite Light, a faith-based organization the provides children with important items for their local Child Advocacy Center or entering foster care because of abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual), neglect, or human trafficking. The youth completed 12 blankets which were delivered to their location in Rogers, ND. 

After the youth finished their mission project for Ignite Light they enjoyed pizza, games, and a movie before heading home.

Maycee Johnson, a freshman from Plankinton UMC, wrote this description of Madison's event: 

At Madison winter connection there were 16 students and seven adults. During our time together we enjoyed theater popcorn and played the “body part game” where we had to come up to other people that we did not know and touch the body part that was stated before, and we had one fact about us when we were introduced.

Madison youth meals

Youth and adults in Madison assembled over 3,000 meals as their service project during Winter Connection.

Then we played ships and sailors with a bunch of different commands. Some were individual motions and others were done with up to 5 people. This game was very fun and got our energy out.

Next, we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves and had to say one animal that started with the same letter as your name. Then we played the game "I'm going on a picnic" and had to say our name and a picnic item that started with the first letter of your name.  As we went around the circle, we had to include the names and list of picnic items of those that went before us. The two that made us laugh were "Dolphin and Penguin Meat" - the youth shared they are quite the delicacies. It was a bit challenging toward the end.

After getting to know each other's games, we went up to the sanctuary to read Matthew 4:18-19 and dive into this passage. We talked it over before going into three small groups.  One station focused on prayer, at another one we wrote thank you notes, and then the last one was where we dug deeper into this verse. After we were done with our groups we came back together and had wonderful time of worship.  Rev. Bryce Blank [Watertown First UMC] gave us the message. It was an excellent message comparing our life and following Jesus as he shared it through one note and a chord on his guitar.  After worship we had some announcements and watched the debut 2023 Camping Ministry Video that was just released earlier that day. It was after 11:40 p.m. so it was getting to be a late night.

We arose from our sleeping bags on Saturday morning at 8 o’clock to a very yummy breakfast that the Madison church ladies had prepared. It was AMAZING! After breakfast we had some time to gather our belongings and had some free time and played some games. Then, at 9:45 we got all bundled up and walked a couple blocks to the armory to package meals for Kids Against Hunger. Our group of youth packaged around 3,180 meals in our two-hour session.  That was calculated to be around 10% of what was packed during our time slot. We then came back to the church and ate delicious BBQ sandwiches, once again prepared by the Madison UMC Ladies.  After lunch we played another round of ships and sailors since we enjoyed it so much the night before. Then we went to the Community Center pool for the rest of our time.  We enjoyed the pool, diving boards, slides, and hot tub from 1:30-3:30 p.m. We closed our weekend with prayer and departed. It was a truly amazing weekend.


Winter Connection 2023


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