SJV Youth Group is a major success for teens

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The SJV youth group gather in West Virginia to serve the country’s poor

By: Sarah Soos, Fall Reporter

Every Sunday Saint John Vianney has weekly youth group meetings, in Trailer D behind SJV Church. These meetings consists of teens ranging from 8th graders to Seniors in high school.

The basis of youth group is to give teens a place to talk about their religion without feeling judged or ridiculed for it. Each youth group is different, in it’s own way to structure itself and the members. The SJV youth group is very big on volunteering and helping around the community.

Firstly, one event that the SJV youth group provides service to is at the local SJV fair. They run the soda tent every year yet all the proceeds still go to the SJV school. It is a good way for the kids to get involved, while at the same time talking to people in the local community. Another major key point in youth group is to develop those people skills and those sociable skills to set teens up for the future. They are taught through this program that just simply talking to someone or asking how their day is going can help you get to know someone on a level you couldn’t imagine.

Some community service events that the youth is involved in includes a program called ‘Tooling Around The Township‘. In this the kids go to a house owned by a member of the community and help to renovate it/fix it up. The members learn about the gift of volunteering along with helping out it’s own people from the community.

Another event that the teens get a chance to participate in is a one week trip during the summer, ‘Appalachia’. In this trip the members of the youth ministry go to West Virginia to serve the poor and talk to the families of the projects they are working on. The Appalachia project has been an ongoing success for the past 20 years. The teens get to experience first hand the true poverty and the great challenges that America’s poor are facing. Many of the teens talk greatly about this experience. Most members called it ‘life changing’ and ‘eye-opening’.

Camp Galilee is the where all the youth group teens stay while serving the poor in Appalachia
Camp Galilee is the where all the youth group teens stay while serving the poor in Appalachia

Although, these community service projects aren’t the only thing that open some teens minds and hearts. The youth ministry itself has played a major role in many of the young adults lives. Just the weekly meetings every Sunday gives the members a chance to open up and speak freely of their faith. One of those teens is Amy Sheridan. The junior at Colonia High School gave her insight on just how big of an impact youth group played in her life.

When asked why she joined youth group, Amy explained, ‘I wanted to be around more positivity and people who share the same beliefs as me. Also just to have something positive to look forward to at the end of each week”. Sheridan discussed the positive impact youth group had on her and others in the ministry. Sheridan also mentioned, “It’s become a safe space for me to talk without being judged and it’s helped me become more religious alongside people who just make my connection with God stronger”.

Although religion plays a major role in youth group, another main goal is to spread good in the world. One mission is to have every kid that walks into youth group leave with a more positive perspective on the world. The youth ministry helps to provide a brighter outlook, and to always give as hand to those around you. The head of the youth ministry for over 10 years, John Cook, explained the true purpose of youth group, along with the reason behind his involvement.

“Why did I want to be a youth minister? To fulfill my confirmation requirement, I had to attend a weekend long confirmation retreat. I went in angry and closed minded. I was appalled that I had to give up an entire¬†weekend. To my utter and complete surprise, I met God through the dynamics of that weekend. Long story short, that experience was life changing for me. It gave me a new and clear perspective on life, and I want to share that with others”

The youth minister explained that as a young teen he was not involved in his faith and had no desire to be. Yet as he got involved in his local youth group, his entire perspective changed. Therefore, he wanted this same change for kids all across our community. The inspiring story is relatable for teens in the aspect that you don’t need to have a strong faith in order to join youth group, or even have a strong desire. Cook also gave his input on whether or not he has seen a change – physically, mentally and/or emotionally – in any teens who have passed through the youth group as the years have gone by.

“Absolutely. I would call them physco-spirtual. I think what we do in our attempt to provide the life changing experiences, to bring somebody closer to faith, I think when that experience really hits, there’s a change that happens not only on an emotional level but I think it happens in the brain. Things start to make sense. Why we do what we do? Why we serve the poor? Why we help each other? Why I should put Christ first in my life? And let all the other pieces fall into place, as a result of that. Our goal, I guess, is to create a spiritual dynamic that people can build their entire lives around”.

In conclusion, the SJV youth group helps set young teens up for the future. Whether it be college, career, or even just talking to someone on the street. The youth ministry provides teen with a safe place to talk. Either about their religion or just the everyday struggles of being a teenager. Everything said in the youth group is confidential making the environment both comfortable and trustworthy.

Overall the youth group has been a major success over the past years. It will only continue to grow and blossom. Teens from different schools, towns, ages, and backgrounds come together to share one common thing.