2013-14: Organic Youth’s First-Year Reflection

Organic Youth, the re-visioned youth ministry of the Niagara Frontier Conference, has come though our first year “growing, living, reaching & serving in God’s love!”

Dozens and dozens of youth in grades 1-12 have been a part of serving their neighbors, worship experiences, devotions, leading, ministering with their peers, and a whole lotta fun along the way!  In particular, Organic Youth has had these programs:

A New Leadership Team

We invited 20 senior high youth from across Western New York to be leaders in their church!  This leadership team, evolved from the former NFCLYO CORE Team, gathered monthly for training, planning of programs, sharing dinner and sharing our stories and prayers through devotions.  The rest of the month, this team was active leading youth programs, reaching out to churches, serving and – most importantly – being peer ministers by connecting with their peers, sharing Jesus, and being with them through life’s ups and downs.

Organic Youth at Lasertron

Our annual overnight at Lasertron in Amherst carried over to Organic Youth, but with a new twist: we did not do large-group worship.  In its place, the Leadership Team planned and organized a series of small-group devotions during the night.  Youth came in small groups, heard the Word, had faith conversations, and prayed together.  Some even came back for seconds on devos!

Organic Youth at Harvest House

Another carryover event, our Harvest House overnight takes place in South Buffalo at the ministry with the same name.  We had a worship concert, food, games, movies, and we raised a boatload of coin to benefit Harvest House.  A new service activity this year was that we assembled and made cards for 100 Christmas personal care gift bags for the clients of Harvest House’s baby and children ministry!

1st-5th Grade Christmas Party

Organic Youth expanded it’s ministry to include younger children in 1st-5th grade this year with this holiday event in December.  With the gracious hospitality of St. John Lutheran Church in Williamsville, we held an afternoon program (despite the 6 inches of snow falling outside) with Christmas-themed games, crafts, snowball cookies, and devotions.

Two Satellite Programs

Satellite Programs are ways Organic Youth helps to create and sustain life-changing youth ministry programs among small clusters of neighboring churches that alone are unable to do youth ministry.  Through a partnership with these clusters of churches, we customize a youth ministry that works for the cluster, that brings together a critical mass of youth for worship, service, fun, and much more!  Organic Youth has supported the North Satellite since 2009, and this year added the Northtowns Satellite.

Volleyball Marathon with Meal Packing Event

The third carryover event, we continued with our very successful Volleyball Marathon!  Of course we played tons of volleyball!  We also raised money to support Lutheran Charities of Western New York, rolled back out our small group devotions led by our Leadership Team (see Lasertron above for details on devotions), and we also assembled and packed 10,000 macaroni-and-cheese meals to feed hungry families across WNY!

Organic Youth Olympics

We needed some spring outdoor faith and fun…and the Organic Youth Olympics was started!  A new event this year, we created our own “Olympic” fun with games, friendly competition, food and, of course, devotions led by our Leadership Team.

Adult Youth Worker Training & Community-building

Youth ministry cannot happen with trained, dedicated adult leaders.  Organic Youth creates opportunities for adults to grow in their youth ministry expertise with an annual training event at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center, and other local gatherings to share experiences and work together in planning programs.  We also encourage participation in larger training programs as well, such as the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza.

Suicide Prevention Training

Our final program of the year involved bringing in a presenter from Buffalo State College to train our senior high youth and recognizing the warning signs and helping respond to peers who may be considering suicide or self-harm, and referring them to the help they need to recover.  Youth suicide and self-harm are huge problems among youth, and Organic Youth believes in training peers to reach out and help those youth that are vulnerable, as Christ calls all of us to reach out to others in need.

We cannot thank enough all who made our 2013-14 program year possible.  From those who were on our re-visioning team, to the youth and adults to came out and participated, to our hosts, to parents and churches who supported us, and so many more!  We are about to take this thing to a new level in 2014-15 thanks to your support!