UCA Holds First Youth Church

January 27, 2019 | Education | Shelley Bacon

Connecting youth to Jesus and encouraging commitment to and involvement in church has been a theme of much discussion in the Adventist Church as many recent studies indicate young people are leaving the church in alarming numbers. How can we keep our young people engaged? How can we let them know we value them? How can they feel empowered in the church? Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) in Spangle, Wash., and the UCA Church believe one way to do this is to allow youth to be totally in charge of church.

Last spring, a student at UCA approached Eric Johnson, principal, with an idea: Why can’t UCA have a church service run entirely by the youth? This had been done in the student’s home church with great success. Why not at UCA? Johnson approached Kerianne Kruger, class of 2019, and asked her to prayerfully consider coordinating this idea. She accepted the call. Thus, the idea of Youth Church at UCA was begun.

The Youth Church concept was wholeheartedly approved by the UCA Church board at the end of the 2017–18 school year. A sign-up sheet was posted, and 25 students signed up. More students added their names during registration for the 2018–19 school year.

Organizers of Youth Church say they intend to involve every student on those two lists in some way or another. Leaders Taylor Duffield, Beverly Talakua, Caleb Acker, Takota Byard, Benji Buursma, Hayden McCombs, Faith Montes, Lauren Early, Meghan Orvis and Emily Perkins joined overall coordinator Kruger and the adult staff and sponsors at a special weekend retreat to prepare their hearts and plan for the implementation of Youth Church.

The theme of the first Youth Church — held on Nov. 3, 2018 — was “Overcoming the Fear Factor.” Student leaders Duffield and Talakua began with a short intro and prayer. Then all their hours of planning and practice culminated in a beautiful, deep and meaningful service. Students led in every area: children’s story, Scripture, prayer, praise singing, short dramas, greeting, ushering, creating the bulletin and preaching.

UCA students were drawn to the honesty and openness of the presenters and were engaged in the service. “It is very humbling to know that everyone is struggling with something because sometimes as an individual we get too focused on our own problems,” says Joel Cruz, a senior.

The message was clear to a nonchurched student, Jingyi, from China: “This speech talked about fear. Everyone has something to fear, maybe small, maybe big. It's hard to face it, but it always exists," he says. "Only by making up your mind to defeat it and face it can you move forward bravely. Believe that God will always protect you in the distance, accompany you and defeat your fear.”

Future Youth Church services will be planned in a similar manner, with the team leaders getting together with their staff sponsors and Kruger, choosing a theme, planning the program, utilizing staff coaches for specific areas such as music and drama, and producing a church service designed to touch hearts and connect the worshippers to Jesus. Upcoming dates for Youth Church are March 2, April 13 and May 18. We invite you to pray for UCA’s Youth Church — and to attend!