By: Christa Meland
Last weekend, 320 fifth- through ninth-grade youth (and chaperones) gathered for fun, fellowship, worship, and to explore the blessings in their lives at “The Event” at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd.
The youth came from 36 United Methodist churches around the state. The theme #blessed and featured speaker, Rev. Chris Carr from Lake Harriet UMC in Minneapolis, not only reinforced how they are gifted by God but reminded them that they are blessed to go out into the world and serve others.
“We looked at how we hear and see things differently with God in our lives and how we’re called to tell a different story,” said Rev. Erica Koser, who co-leads the conference’s Youth Ministry Team and serves as pastor of discipleship and justice ministries at Centenary UMC in Mankato. “We talked about how even though life is hard sometimes, we still have all these blessings God gives us—and God is in the midst of those blessings.”
On Saturday, youth engaged in three activities that drove home the theme.
• Insta-blessings: Youth broke into small groups and created “Insta-blessings”—Instagram stories that illustrated the blessings in their lives, which ranged from nature to family and friends. (Check out these stories on the Minnesota UMC Youth Instagram page.)
• Experiential learning: Camping staff also led the youth in some experiential learning to explore Matthew 13:16: “Blessed are your eyes because you see, and your ears because they hear” (NIV). In the first activity, participants attempted to line up from shortest to tallest while blindfolded. Next, they were instructed to line up in order of their birth dates—without using their voices or mouthing words. “We talked about being blessed to hear and see, and what it means to see with spiritual eyes,” said Dan Ziegler, director of Koronis Ministries in Paynesville. This set of activities ended with “Simon Says” and a discussion about the importance of teaching ourselves to listen to God’s voice in the midst of all the other voices and noise competing for our attention.
• Service project: Youth also engaged in a service project to provide a tangible blessing to others. After walking around Cragun’s in search of various resources that they would have needed if they were homeless and learning about what homelessness looks like, they assembled 76 winter blessing bags that will be distributed to homeless Minnesotans this winter. Each bag contained socks, a hat, gloves, lip balm, and lotion.
There were four worship services throughout the weekend, and Boiling Point band made an appearance too. Throughout the three days of The Event, participants donated $660 in hopes of getting Bishop Ough jump in frozen Lake Koronis on Feb. 18. Bishop Ough will take the plunge IF the conference pledges $10,000 for camp scholarships. (You can donate here.)
“I loved seeing how engaged the kids remained throughout the weekend,” said Koser. “This was an amazing group. And when the Cragun’s staff told me they felt blessed by our kids, that made me really proud.”
View photos from The Event
Save the date: 2017’s “The Event” is returning to Cragun’s Nov. 3-5!
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church