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After months of listening and planning, Pop Up Youth Ministry is ready to launch

Pop Up Youth Ministry
Nina Nicholson

Sunday, September 22 is the eve of the Autumn Equinox and the official beginning of fall. It is also the date of the inaugural event of the new Pop Up Youth Ministry, at which youth in grades 6-12 from throughout the diocese are encouraged to gather from 3:30-6:30 PM at St. Alban’s Church in Oakland/Franklin Lakes for “Epic Games!” The afternoon will include dinner, a medal ceremony and worship by a campfire.

Two Youth Ministry Fellows, Matt Porowski and Shannon Molnar, are responsible for organizing this and following events under the supervision of Cross Roads Executive Director Anthony Briggs. Both local college students with a long history as first campers and then counselors at Cross Roads, Porowski and Molnar were introduced last month in Meet the two Fellows for Pop Up Youth Ministry.

Matt Porowski and Shannon Molnar
Matt Porowski and Shannon Molnar

Pop Up Youth Ministry is the result of months of listening to the youth of our diocese, their leaders and their clergy, which identified a challenge affecting the majority of our congregations: while our young people desire opportunities to socialize and develop relationships with their peers, very few congregations have a sufficient youth presence to sustain a youth ministry.

At the same time, a successful experiment was taking place with Cross Roads, the camp and retreat center shared by the Diocese of Newark and the NJ Synod of the ELCA (Lutheran Church). Working in partnership with the diocese, Cross Roads staff had begun leading Confirmation Retreats, Elementary and Middle school retreats for diocesan youth.

The identification of the need for a new approach to youth ministry, along with an expanded working relationship with a youth-related resource, inspired the idea of a year-long experiment in regional youth ministry. A generous gift from “angel donors” enabled this inspiration to be put into action for the 2019-2020 program year. (See Pop-Up Youth Ministry to begin in 2019, December 2018.)

This past spring, a team of youth leaders and clergy worked to identify event locations and dates, while Briggs hired and trained the Youth Fellows, who spent the summer working at Cross Roads.

Pop Up Youth Ministry team meeting, March 2019
Members of the Pop Up Youth Ministry team meeting in March 2019.
L-r: Candice Whitaker, Janelle Grant, Shannon Molnar, the Rev. Diana Wilcox,
Cynthia McChesney, Matt Porowski, the Rev. Kathryn King and her son,
Anthony Briggs, Kathy Dewalt, Kathryn Schaefer and Alicia Stathum.
Not pictured: Chris Whitaker, the Rev. Bowie Snodgrass and the Rev. Laurie Wurm.

Gatherings will be hosted at St. Alban’s; Christ Church, Bloomfield/Glen Ridge; and Grace Van Vorst, Jersey City. Cross Roads’ annual “Rally for Cross Roads” in October, and Middle School Retreats in March and April 2020, will round out the roster of monthly events.

Intended to augment, rather than replace, existing programs at individual churches, the gatherings will combine fun activities with faith formation, fellowship and relationship building. Service activities will build connections with the local community, as well as provide documented community service hours and leadership activities for college applications.

Broader goals are to create learning communities that support youth ministers and youth volunteers and raise up new youth leaders from youth assistants.
Leaders and participants will meet in spring 2020 to evaluate the first year, with an eye toward improving and expanding the program.

Upcoming Pop Up Youth events are listed online here.

You can follow the Pop Up Youth Ministry on Facebook and Instagram (@popupym). For questions, please email