How can we use our devices with all of their apps to develop our spirituality and invite others to faith? That was the question that 142 youth and adults pondered during the Winter Connection. The event was held at McCabe United Methodist Church in Bismarck, ND, First UMC in Brookings, SD, and at Storm Mountain Center near Rapid City, SD.
Winter Connection is about seeing friendships develop or deepen and spending time together in good Christian fellowship. The event, organized by the Dakotas Conference Council of Youth Ministry (CCYM), included worship, a time for fellowship, learning about faith, a service project, and fun activities —bowling and skating.
“I really enjoyed our Friday night,” said Pastor John Britt, who is an adult member of CCYM and helped lead the team that gathered at Storm Mountain. “We began with some fun games that helped us get to know our new friends. We followed that up with some worship songs led by Pastor Karl (Kroger) that built our sense of community. Pastor Brett Roes shared a great message about not conforming to the world but conforming to God instead. After the message, we rotated through four game stations to continue to build new friendships. We regathered to have a couple of more songs before heading off to bed for some much-needed sleep.”
Pastor Wade Miller, who was one of the leaders for those that gathered at Brookings First UMC says, “It was fun to get everyone together for worship. We addressed how we can use devices and phones as we develop our spirituality."
One essential part of using technology to develop faith is finding some of the apps that will work for each of us. There are apps for the Bible, a plan for reading the Bible, devotions, prayer, meditation, music—like Spotify and Youtube. Miller noted that many people are finding it important to find apps that give us a positive message, especially with music, rather than what is popular. “It is so easy to jump on the bandwagon and get caught up in negative hype,” he said.
A service project was part of the activities at each site. In Rapid City, a scavenger hunt was held to collect toiletry and non-perishable food items for the HOPE Center. Pastor John Britt had worked with the HOPE Center to align the scavenger hunt list with the needs at the center. The 62 youth and adult participants were divided into five teams and headed out to different parts of Rapid City. The five teams collected hundreds of food and toiletry items for the HOPE Center. Everyone gathered at the HOPE center, where Roxanne, a HOPE Center employee, explained how the center assists the homeless and economically disadvantaged in the community. The participants ate lunch at the center and then sorted all the items into boxes.
“The youth in my group did a tremendous job of inviting and involving neighbors in Rapid City to support The HOPE Center,” says Pastor Karl Kroger, who serves Grace UMC in Piedmont.
The service project at Brookings was making dog treats and toys for the Humane Society. The 47 participants cut and braided felt pull toys for dogs and baked homemade dog biscuits. The toys and treats were delivered to the Brookings Area Humane Society. Youth and adults in attendance learned about the needs of the Humane Society, specifically a need to have visitors for the pets, so they have an opportunity for socialization.
In Bismarck, 33 youth and adults made the blankets for the Ronald McDonald house and Valentine cards for an organization called HIT that works with adults with differing abilities.
Winter Connection created great Holy Spirit memories and moments. Pastor Karl noted one such moment, “While ice-skating, one of my youth fell down and hit her chin. Another child who was not a part of our group noticed and was concerned enough that he asked his mom to check on her. His mom also happened to be a doctor. Thankfully, there were no injuries. When the mom explained why she came to check on my youth, she was so moved by the child's actions, and she hugged him.”
Several of the youth from Winner UMC attended for the first time. “We had two seniors, a ninth grader, and a few seventh and eighth-grade students all come for the first time,” said Pastor John. “The seniors shared that they really enjoyed the event (especially the scavenger hunt) and one even helped lead worship. The younger youth all said they had a blast. At least one is interested in talking some more about being on CCYM.”
At First UMC in Brookings, the Manna in the Middle praise band led music. One of the band members said, “This is one event we look forward to every year. All the kids sing and have a lot of energy.”
Here is what others had to say about Winter Connection 2019:
“My favorite part of Winter Connection this year was the collaboration between so many pastors and youth leaders from around the Dakotas Conference. Following CCYM's lead, our mission is enhanced through the intersecting relationships from various churches.”
“Some of my boys were nervous to come because they didn't know very many other kids. One them, who nearly stayed home, had such a great time he was interested in signing up for church camp.”