Thanks to a generous gift from “angel donors,” in 2019 the diocese will launch a “Pop-Up Youth Ministry” in partnership with Cross Roads Camp and Retreat Center.
“This ministry is designed to bring youth in grades 6-12 together by region, thereby creating ‘critical mass’ in areas where churches have few high school or middle school youth,” said the Rev. Sheelagh Clarke, under whose leadership as Interim Coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministries the program originated.
Clarke established a ministry-planning task force during the episcopate of Bishop Mark Beckwith, who was succeeded by Bishop Carlye Hughes in September 2018. Bishop Hughes enthusiastically blesses and supports this ministry and has sent the organizers off with a hearty “Now get on with it!”
In year one, monthly program locations will alternate between St. Alban’s, Oakland/Franklin Lakes and Christ Church, Bloomfield/Glen Ridge. All youth from throughout the diocese will be welcome at either location.
Clarke said the diocesan program is intended to augment, rather than replace, programs at individual churches, and churches with or without active youth programs are welcome to participate. “We’re hoping it fosters relationships between churches as well,” she said.
The youth programming at the two churches will combine fun activities with faith formation, fellowship, and relationship building, along with providing “a sense of making a difference in the world” through community service, Clarke said.
“A typical event will happen from 5-7 PM on a Sunday evening, beginning with an ice-breaker, followed by an activity, dinner and worship,” according to the Rev. Bowie Snodgrass, associate rector at Christ Church, Short Hills and a member of the task force.
Expected to grow and expand over the next two years, the Pop-Up Youth Ministry program will initially employ two young adult “fellows” who will begin by serving as summer camp counselors at Cross Roads Camp, near Port Murray in Warren County, followed by a school year of planning and executing the youth and young adult programs at the two host churches.
Anthony Briggs, Executive Director at Cross Roads, said, “We see ourselves here primarily for faith formation and leadership development, and we can do those things even better when we are working with the diocese 12 months out of the year, not just for a week or six weeks in a program during the summer.”
Cross Roads is a joint venture with the Diocese of Newark and the New Jersey Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Cynthia McChesney, Advisor to the Bishop for Development and Leadership Giving, said the visionary donors who have made this ministry possible are members of one of our congregations; their decision to underwrite this new program grew out of meetings she and Bishop Beckwith held last year with prospective supporters. “Without their generous charitable support, we couldn’t have been able to design, much less execute, this initiative,” McChesney said, “I think it is very exciting for the diocese.”