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Digital package offered to SDC youth groups

Photo: First MB Church

The Southern District Youth Conference (SDYC), historically an in-person gathering, transitioned online to a virtual event in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

District youth minister Russ Claassen distributed a digital package to churches via email containing links to flyers, videos and documents to help youth leaders create an alternate SDYC gathering with their youth groups. The theme for SDYC was, “Home.”

The digital package included two session videos with messages from Jesse Allen from Hillsboro, Kansas; discussion guides; links to worship music by Presence Worship on YouTube; game resources; website links and recommendations for in-person gatherings; a promo video for Ascent, the new high school camp of U.S. Mennonite Brethren; and videos from Tabor College, Faithfront and Multiply.

In a letter to youth workers, Claassen said, “May the Lord give you encouragement and wisdom as you continue to wade through the uncertainty of the times. Stand in faith knowing the certainty of the Creator of the universe with whom you have a deep and personal relationship.”

Allen recorded two video messages.

“I truly do believe we live in the most climactic moment in human history, and we’re lulled to sleep by everything we can see,” Allen said in his first message. “Jesus is saying wake up and keep watch.”

A handful of SDC youth groups planned alternate in-person events, some of which were altered again, cancelled or postponed.

Most who gathered, did so the weekend of Nov. 21-22.

Hesston MB Church called off its mini retreat at Camp Wood in Elmdale, Kansas, instead hosting a worship night with music, a message and a time of reflection and prayer.

“It is a bizarre time we are living in, but I am confident that our two most powerful weapons are worship and prayer,” says Jared Menard, pastor of youth and families. “So we are going to worship and pray our way through the uncertainty.”

First MB Church in Wichita, Kansas, held a two-day event for its high school ministry, AXIS. According to Kyle Goings, student ministries pastor at First MB, “SDYC at AXIS” included a live band, games, workshops and a service project paired with the pre-recorded messages in the digital package. Both evening sessions were broadcast live on the First MB website so those in quarantine could participate virtually.

Some youth groups chose to postpone SDYC until spring as a result of increased coronavirus cases, such as the three MB churches in Hillsboro, Kansas, who had planned a joint, one-day event with speaker, Jesse Allen; workshops; a catered meal and testimonies.

At Koerner Heights Church in Newton, Kansas, youth pastor David Toelle had planned a weekend event with a band, games, workshops, a nacho and ice cream bar, craft room and more, but county coronavirus restrictions on gatherings caused the church to postpone.

Meanwhile, the Central District Youth Conference (CDYC), initially planned to be held at Inspiration Hills Camp in Inwood, Iowa, was cancelled, according to Anthony Lind, associate youth pastor at Bethesda MB Church in Huron, South Dakota, and member of the Central District youth committee.


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