Screaming, singing, shouting, running, sharing, learning, and serving. There are surely even more memorable things that 245 youth and adults from 27 churches across the Dakotas Conference will remember from DAKYouth 2021. For youth gathered together with other youth for the first time in a while, it was a weekend full of fun and meaningful dialogue in a testament to the theme, "Bent, not Broken," from 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
“You get to go to church with people your own age, instead of people who are all older than you, so I like that,” said Camille Zachrison, of Epworth UMC, in Valley City, North Dakota.
Alex Jensen, from Beresford (South Dakota) UMC, said not to be shy, “I think everyone should come to DAKYouth just for the fact that you get to have fun, you get to meet people, and you’re gonna learn about God.”
The three-day event began on Friday, Nov. 12, with a worship service organized by the Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM). It included music by Christian rock band VOTA, with lead singer Bryan Olesen (formerly with the Newsboys) on vocals and guitar, and John Wooten on drums and keyboards. The Skit Guys entertained and drew people in with their quirky, hilarious, yet meaningful spirit-boosting message, and Rev. Paul Lint delivered the message.
Rejoice Davis, a CCYM youth leader from Trinity UMC, in Lead, South Dakota, encouraged folks to come to the next youth events, especially DAKYouth 2022. “You get to experience God with new and different people. There’s also a lot of guests that we bring in, they’re all really great.”
On Saturday morning, guest speaker Mark DeVries led a thought-provoking session on resiliency, before youth and adults split up into small groups and workshops. The four workshops were scattered throughout the Cultural Center in Aberdeen (formerly Aberdeen Central High), and included Why Camp?, with Rev. Paul Lint of Wesley Acres Camp and Keith Shew, executive director of Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Ministries.
Fun and Games was a lighter workshop led by Fairburn (South Dakota) UMC pastor Jerry Simmons. That was certainly the hottest room in the complex, with sprinting, jumping and tagging youth filling the room.
Guest speaker Jeff Dunn-Rankin, of Ministry Architects, led the Prayer in Our Life workshop, teaching new ways of seeing prayer, digging deeper into the why and how of prayer in our daily lives.
In the main auditorium, Mark DeVries, author of many books on youth ministry, led youth through his workshop called Living Through Tough Times. In this pandemic time, where youth have been so challenged, bent, and isolated, his message underscored resiliency and the power of God’s love, no matter what.
Shanara Lint, a CCYM youth leader from Valley City, North Dakota, felt at home with the open atmosphere of DAKYouth. “I think it’s a good way to casually grow in your faith, without feeling pressured to do anything.”
Saturday evening after dinner, youth returned to the auditorium for a full-blown Christian rock concert by VOTA, and on Sunday morning the closing worship, planned by the CCYM youth, included a message opf hope from Rev. Peggy Hanson, of Trinity UMC, Lead, South Dakota.
Coming out of pandemic cancellations, restrictions, and isolation, Alex Jensen, a junior and second-year member of CCYM, said one challenge was, “Just trying to make sure everything works with COVID policies, and that. Kinda tough, just for the fact that we don’t want to force people to wear a mask, but we have to do it for everyone’s safety.” In that respect, the event appeared to be huge success.
This year’s CCYM group is smaller than in past years, likely due to the pandemic. They are looking for more youth to join them in leading these events and growing their service and ministry. Camille invites with excitement, “Join CCYM! We need more people!” Youth can apply each year to serve on the CCYM webpage.
Alex also shared, “It’s a great experience. You get to meet great people; you get to have fun!”
Stay tuned for details about Winter Connection 2022, the next annual Dakotas event for middle school and high school youth that will happen in Bismarck, ND, Rapid City, SD, and Sioux Falls, SD, on January 28-29, 2022. This is an opportunity for youth to gather, share, worship, and serve others. Each year there is a focus on a particular theme and scripture along with a unique and important component of service. The theme for 2022 is " Gather Round/Bring it in." The scripture is Luke 5:1.