By: Sami Tierney
On Saturday, Jan. 21, 180 youth and chaperones from 24 Minnesota United Methodist churches participated in “The Event” and learned about what it means to be rooted in Christ’s love while enjoying fun, fellowship, worship, and some hip-hop.
This year’s annual gathering for fifth- through ninth-grade students was a half-day regional event taking place in two separate locations: Advent UMC in Eagan and First UMC of the St. Cloud Region in Sartell. Each site had the same schedule of programming and content, with a different live hip-hop artist at each.
Under the theme “Rooted,” conference Youth Ministry Co-Coordinators Catie Levenick and Sami Tierney helped participants unpack Ephesians 3 and Levenick shared a message about being grounded in Christ’s love. Those gathered were encouraged to check on the condition of their soil and the depth of their roots, considering questions like: Where do you put your identity? What happens when things get hard? Who is part of your support system? Youth were also given a “Rooted” temporary tattoo to remind them of how much God loves them.
Students at both locations assembled blessing bags with materials gathered from participating churches. The bags—which included items such as toothbrushes, lip balm, lotion, socks, hand warmers, and snacks—will be distributed to persons experiencing homelessness or financial hardship. Advent UMC kept many of the bags for its congregation to distribute, and a few students took bags to share with people they know who need them. Additional bags are being donated to 360 Communities in Rosemount, and bags assembled in St. Cloud are being donated to Pathways4Youth in that city. In total, 434 blessing bags were packed!
For fun, the day also included a highly competitive rock, paper, scissors tournament. And after a pizza lunch, both groups enjoyed an “escape room in a suitcase” led by Lock and Key Escape Rooms. “Uncle Milton” challenged participants to solve several riddles and play some board games before the reading of his will and ultimate prize. Youth played this table-top escape room experience in their church groups.
The Event ended with a hip-hop concert, featuring F’Rael in Eagan and Pierre (Ninja 4 Jesus) in St. Cloud. People danced, sang along, and praised God through music.
Those present appreciated different parts of the Event, many saying that making the blessing bags was the most impactful part of the experience. Others loved the hip-hop concert and the opportunity to “rock out” in a church sanctuary. While a weekend spent at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd or the St. Cloud Holiday Inn has been the norm for The Event (when it’s not held online), this shortened regional experience provided a more accessible experience for youth and leaders and an opportunity to connect with others in the same part of the state.
Thank you to all who helped make The Event 2023 possible, particularly the two host churches. All youth are invited to participate the 2024 event, and we hope to see you there!
Sami Tierney is co-coordinator of the Minnesota Conference Youth Ministry and director of youth and family ministry at Messiah UMC in Plymouth.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404