[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in March 2007. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news
by Laura Lehman Amstutz
At Wyldlife, Jr. High kids have fun and learn about God.
Aurora, Colo.---When churches think of youth programs they too seldom consider connecting with other local organizations. But pastor Phil Ebersole and the members of Peace Mennonite Church in the Denver , Colo. , metro area have created a unique partnership with Young Life, a non-denominational Christian outreach ministry.
Peace Mennonite, in partnership with Young Life, is funding a full-time staff person to work with youth through Young Life programming and the congregation.
"We define being in mission as being intentional about outreach and evangelism," said Ebersole, a 1982 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
For Peace Mennonite, outreach and evangelism takes the form of two youth programs connected to Young Life. Whiz Kids is a junior-high school tutoring program that got its start with Young Life. Whiz Kids pairs "at risk" youth with a tutor for a once a week session. These one-hour sessions are held at Peace Mennonite on Thursday evenings.
Following the sessions, youth can stay for the Wyldlife, a Young Life club for junior high students. At Wyldlife, youth from the tutoring program are joined by youth from the congregation and others. They play games, get to know each other and at the end there is a brief talk that introduces the kids to God.
Fifteen to 20 junior high students attend Wyldlife every week, and more are being reached through the work of Sisney and the volunteers.
Gina Sisney works with Young Life and Peace Mennonite to reach kids in the community.
"Involvement with Young Life is one way we can be intentional about reaching unchurched kids," said Ebersole. Young Life staff and volunteers spend their time where the kids are. They go to the school cafeteria, favorite fast food hangouts, basketball games - anywhere kids are usually found.
"They build relationships with the kids and out of that they invite them to be part of a weekly gathering," Ebersole continued. Young Life and Peace Mennonite hired full-time staff person Gina Sisney to work at this relationship-building. Five volunteers - four from Peace Mennonite and one from another local congregation - have joined Sisney in working with the youth.
Relating to Young Life was a natural fit for Ebersole. His wife, Gail, has been involved in Young Life for 30 years. She is currently a senior vice president, giving oversight to Young Life programs from Indiana to Alaska . Their children were involved in Young Life as youth, and Phil hosted weekly discipleship meetings for Young Life in his last pastoral position in Toledo , Ohio .
"One of our hopes is that we will connect with some of the hard-to-reach and unchurched kids that wouldn’t set foot in a church," Ebersole said. "We want these kids to be involved with the youth from our church and become a part of our youth group.
"I believe that we cannot tame or predict the way in which God will work in the life of persons or a community of believers," he added.