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Youth ministry cohort: Churches share impact

Ten churches committed to be part of a youth ministry cohort in June 2016. The churches include: Bowman UMC, ND; Hettinger UMC, ND; Huron First UMC, SD; Miller UMC, SD; Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC, SD; Sioux Falls Sunnycrest UMC, SD; Winner UMC, SD; Washburn UMC, SD; Watertown First UMC, SD and Yankton UMC, SD.

The cohort is meeting quarterly with Stephanie Caro, Ministry Architects. Churches in the first Youth Ministry Cohort met with Caro in August at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD, in October at Storm Mountain Center, Rockerville, SD and in January at Lake Poinsett, SD.  The fourth and final training will take place on April 1 at Wesley Acres.  Through training and planning, each church is working on creating a culture of call for young people and developing youth leadership to help make disciples. Photo: Youth group at Canyon Lake UMC. Courtesy Canyon Lake UMC.

“This first cohort will help guide the way for future cohorts. We want anyone interested to come to any of the sessions to learn more and maybe join the second cohort,” said Deb Kjerstad, director of leadership development.

Two of the participating churches, Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC and Hettinger UMC recently shared insights on the youth ministry cohort.

Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC has had six members attending the youth ministry cohort trainings—the youth coordinator, an associate pastor, three lay volunteers and the children’s ministry coordinator. Erin Wood, youth coordinator sees several impacts and benefits as a result of Rapid City Canyon Lake UMC’s participation in the youth ministry cohort.  One of the biggest impacts has been the formation of a team that is forming goals and focus for youth ministry at the church. Photo: Erin Woods, Canyon Lake UMC youth coordinator. Courtesy Canyon Lake UMC.

“It (the youth ministry cohort) has brought my pastor, volunteers and I together to talk about and discuss again our goals. It has given us all the same materials to learn and a common language and training to focus on. For my volunteers and me we do not have formal youth leader training so it is helping us get organized, stay focus, and learn together” said Woods. 

Specific tools and tips have been significant to the team at Canyon Lake UMC. Wood describes that there are suggested websites and lesson ideas that the team gathers at the trainings.  The yearly calendar and how to do a visioning meeting tools were extremely helpful, as well as the books that Cara has referred to and recommended.

After each of the in-person trainings, Caro sets up personal training calls with a member of each of the church teams.  “These are the best. It is so helpful to talk about our specific program with Steph to gain insight and get advice,” said Wood. “This training has done a lot for me. It has given me the practical information that I need to make my youth program stronger starting with the building blocks of organization of calendars, attendance records, volunteer training, volunteer job descriptions and calendaring my time. These sorts of things are important and yet I didn't realize how important they really were because it is easy to concentrate more on the lessons, activities and prayers. It is also great to meet with other youth leaders and hear their successes and stories to know that I am not alone in what I do and how I feel. I always leave the meetings invigorated and on fire!”

Rev. Duane Coates has been coordinator the efforts of Hettinger UMC. This is Coates’ first year in appointment to Hettinger, ND.  He arrived in July and the youth ministry cohort started in August.  Hettinger UMC has an average worship attendance of 70 and is located in the southwestern corner of North Dakota. One of impacts the youth ministry cohort has had on Hettinger UMC is the realization that size does not matter. Photo: Rev. Duane Coates. (Courtesy Hettinger UMC)

“Hettinger really isn’t a small church in United Methodism or even among churches throughout the United States. Yet, sometimes it’s easy to perceive that we are overlooked because of size. So, giving us this opportunity told us not only are we noticed, but also the conference still has both hope and expectation for our continued vitality,” said Coates.  “Right from the first cohort training, we confronted the fact that, with Jesus, even a small group of disciples can impact the world. So, our size doesn’t give us a pass in terms of expectations nor take away the possibilities for a difference-making ministry in our community.”

Another key influence that Hettinger UMC is experiencing from participation in the youth ministry is a sense of confidence from the conference in local youth ministry and that the conference supports this priority as one strategy toward attaining vitality.

Sustainability is another key impact that Hettinger UMC is learning about. “The principles of sustainable ministry that Ministry Architects teach can be applied by any reasonable youth director and will provide what I call the ministry infrastructure on which to build a solid program. In fact, this approach to building a solid structure on which to operate a highly effective and, more importantly, sustainable ministry can be applied to the whole church, not just to youth ministry,” said Coates. Photo: Hettinger UMC (Courtesy Hettinger UMC)

Hettinger UMC has faced some challenges in participation and implementation.  Even though the trainings are held throughout the conference the nearest one for the Hettinger team is three hours away.  Additionally, the pastoral transition has taken some time and energy that was unanticipated.

“We hoping that a fuller implementation of the principles will happen during the 2017-18 school year,” said Coates.

A second youth ministry cohort will begin in June of 2017.  If you have questions or are interested in the youth ministry cohort contact Deb Kjerstad, director of leadership by e-mail or phone,  605-990-7796.


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