The Champion Grant allows churches to answer their “what if” questions and “how might we” wonderings with new or expanded ministry ideas. In coming alongside Anglican student ministries with financial support, we are seeing students formed into the likeness of Christ.
The Village Church saw that the high school students in their ministry needed to be cared for and discipled during this phase of life. Village’s youth group is middle school heavy, so Smyth Taylor, Village’s student ministry director, was looking for a summer retreat that was high school specific. To respond to this need, she decided to take them to an RYM Conference in Florida.
The adult leaders were hopeful that this time away from regular routines and rhythms would create new opportunities for students’ faith to deepen. Throughout their week together, students engaged well in the teaching, which included large group worship and teaching as well as elective breakout sessions. Students from the Village Church chose to stay together and attend the same electives. They attended breakout sessions focused on Identity and Anxiety and Depression. Because they were all together in breakout sessions, they also had an opportunity to reflect on those experiences as a group during small group time.
One of the most encouraging parts of the week was the ways that students connected outside of the regular programming. In between sessions, students were talking to each other and to the adult leaders about what they were learning and what questions they continued to have. They loved being at the beach and spent their free time unplugged from devices and building new relationships.
Now months later, Smyth says that she still sees the impact of the friendships that were built during camp. High schoolers who could have easily been overlooked were seen and cared for as a result of this trip. Going forward, Smyth shared that she’s hopeful this trip creates a kind of legacy for high school students that younger students can look forward to. Time away from regular routines in a wonderful place like the beach will always be exciting. Even more exciting is the ways that this trip allows students to hear the Gospel proclaimed clearly.
The Champion Grant exists to come alongside student ministry champions with financial support for their ministry ideas. Some of the most encouraging stories we hear from churches in our province come from students who begin new projects or ministries. At Christ the Redeemer in Nampa, Idaho, immigrant students from East Africa and American students looking for new ways to build relationships started teaching each other dances from their cultural contexts. As they learned these dances, they wanted to share what they had learned along with a Gospel message of reconciliation. Adult leaders in the church came alongside these students to support their dance group and find time for them to further the connection and learning that was already taking place.
The Champion Grant allowed these students to go on a new youth dance retreat a couple of hours away from their home church. Some of these students had been a part of the group from the beginning, while others joined the group for the first time. Rev. Ben Fischer shared, “We began by watching a video of our first dance performance to help the newcomers see what we would be working on. Then we read from Revelation 7 about “every nation, tribe, people and language gathered around the throne,” and we talked about the significance of simply being together as Christians from different ethnic backgrounds – American, German, Finnish, Mexican, Rwandese, Kenyan, Burundian, and Congolese.” The students caught a vision of how this passage of scripture spoke to their ministry and decided to call their dance group “Every Tribe and Nation.”
Throughout the retreat, young people had the opportunity to share meals together, join in corporate worship, learn about discipleship, and, of course, learn and practice new dances together. Both Americans and Africans helped lead singing and Bible teaching.
“When it came to learning dances, we warmed up with American kids teaching two upbeat group dances. Rwandan students then stepped in for the primary objective of teaching two Rwandan dances, and the group began to prepare a performance. By the end of the day, the group had mastered the two American dances and one of the Rwandan dances,” Rev. Fischer told our team.
One of the most encouraging things he shared with us is how this group plans to go forward now after the retreat.
Students are working on their presentation, which will soon include a translation of the songs they use, and they are committed to regular rehearsal time. As they have enjoyed getting to share dances with peers from another cultural background, they are getting ready to take the presentation they have worked on to nursing homes, an elementary school, and more church functions.
As Ben observed the group now, he said, “The group has continued to grow closer, and despite the very different backgrounds, they are finding connection in discipleship and the joy of dance. These relationships are growing now even outside our formal times together.”
In creative ways, these young people are sharing the Gospel and bringing awakening to churches, communities, and cultures. As the Student Leadership Network, we want to continue to see young leaders equipped for a lifetime of Kingdom service.
How do you help students learn to trust each other and build friendships with people they often don’t know outside of church? One church, Grace Church Seattle, brought students on a retreat for this very purpose, with the help of the Champion Grant. Throughout the weekend, students learned about and practiced belonging.
In group teaching sessions, students first explored the modern, Western idea that you belong to yourself and to belong to anyone else is too restrictive. Through personal testimony, Nelson Hall, the assistant pastor of youth and young adults, shared that trying to belong only to yourself is isolating and can increase anxiety. Instead, we can belong to Jesus and to each other. Spending time reading Matthew, students considered the character of Jesus and how trustworthy he is. Students fully engaged in this topic and were honest about what it means to belong to Jesus and each other.
This is what Nelson told our team: “Our last evening (Saturday night) was the richest discussion I’ve seen our group (not only during the retreat but period) have together. Often, small group discussion can be the leader asking a question, it’s quiet, then the small group leader asks another question, and then it’s quiet.
“But what happened Saturday was so beautiful. I gave them prompts before quiet time and journaling about the weekend. During the discussion, I faded into the background. Kids started talking to each other, riffing off of ideas, and pulling in threads from what we learned during the weekend. It was like a discussion we were creating together, like a beautiful melody we were making together. It went on for quite a while and was a beautiful way to wrap up our last evening together.”
Beyond their time in group sessions, students went on a hike together, relaxed in the cabin the church rented out, and even had a just-for-fun talent show on Saturday night. They let their guard down in a way that allowed them to relax and build greater connections as a group. Beyond having space for connection, some students also stepped into new leadership roles.
Two students led in worship through music at the start of every group session. Before the retreat, they chose the songs themselves and helped coordinate their practices. It was an exciting new step for them to lead the rest of the group in worship and use their God-given gifts.
“The weekend didn’t feel like it needed to be the leader show, of us imparting wisdom,” Nelson said. “We led and facilitated, but we also gave students the opportunity to lead. We got to see them flourish, and the Lord was kind in that.”
We know that Grace is not the only church inviting young people to belong to Jesus and the church. As the Student Leadership Network, we value purposefulness and creating spaces, resources, and events that effectively foster life together in Christ and his Kingdom. As you think about the invitation your ministry is offering students to join in the fullness of life in the Kingdom, what new things come to mind? How can we come alongside you as you try a new ministry idea?
As you think about raising the next generation of leaders, consider applying for a Champion Grant. The grant exists to come alongside student ministry champions with financial support for their new ministry ideas.
The Student Leadership Network, along with many of our churches, values household faith. We affirm the central role of the household in student discipleship and call on the entire church to support them. A church in Michigan is supporting the role of parents in discipling their children and finding new ways to connect parents and students together.
Under the direction of Amy Wolthuis, All Saints Holland Anglican Church started Roots, a two-year discipleship cohort designed to equip mothers as their daughters move toward adulthood. The parents are focused on preparing these students for life and mission in the body of Christ and the world. This new discipleship cohort received support from a Champion Grant.
Now, nearly halfway through the cohort’s first year, Amy shared with the Student Leadership Network some of the joys and challenges of this pilot program. Moms and daughters began time together in community with a weekend retreat. As they began to share in conversation, leaders intentionally tried to help participants shift their focus from self to others as well as from individuality to community. After five months of regular meetings, Amy is noticing increased comfort and a greater quality of conversation. Relationships are being strengthened within families and among parents and students.
“As moms, we have done work to brainstorm what we hope our daughters know, do, and experience before leaving our home,” Amy shared. “This has been a lot of good work and we have learned so much already – about ourselves and each other and also how groups coming after us might tweak our plan to better suit their needs and make improvements.”
In addition to focusing on studying scripture together and building intergenerational relationships, Roots includes group service opportunities to bless the surrounding community. Most recently, students made fleece blankets for a local pregnancy center. Parents and leaders at All Saints Holland are being intentional about looking ahead to the kind of leaders they hope their community will have and are helping form these young people into those leaders.
As you think about raising the next generation of leaders and supporting parents, are there financial barriers to the work you feel called to do? Consider applying for a Champion Grant, which exists to come alongside student ministry champions with financial support for their new ministry ideas.