Junior High: Discovery Celebrations
Junior highers worship, serve in Columbusby Heidi Martin
More than 200 junior high students met for worship sessions, known as “Discovery Celebration,” or gathered for small group activities during Convention 2009.
Alexander Delgadillo of Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor, Goshen, Ind., reads Scripture on July 3. Photo by Anna Groff.
The junior youth schedule began at 8 a.m. each day and wrapped up by 9 p.m. Split into groups of eight with two leaders per group, there were a total of 25 groups.
“Separation [between junior youth and the adult and youth conventions] has been true in the past,” said Todd Lehman of Hesston, Kan. “Now the intent is to still provide a junior high convention but for it to feel like it’s part of the whole, broader picture of convention.”
In earlier years, parents attending Mennonite conventions as delegates needed a place to go and a way to feel involved, said Lehman.
But the junior youth convention has been growing in popularity as a convention in its own right; junior high youth groups are intentionally choosing to attend Mennonite convention because of the junior youth feature.
Lehman said that half the junior youth registered because their parents were delegates, and half came specifically because of the junior youth feature.
Lehman and three others, spent 18 months planning the events of the junior youth convention. Their efforts did not go unnoticed; the days were packed with activity. Throughout the week, junior high students participated in a scavenger hunt around the city of Columbus, attended the zoo and Zoombezi Bay Water Park and contributed to various service projects.
The Discovery Celebrations reflected the format of the youth worship services with a band, speaker and time for small group interaction. Music was lead by The Ransom Project, a band from southeast Iowa that formed in 2002.
John Brommels, Cincinnati, provided entertainment and sound messages through drama.
Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church, was the featured speaker, with assistance from Samantha “Sam” Lioi.
“After one and a half or more years of planning,” said Lehman, “one of the biggest highlights is just seeing students here and enjoying themselves and seeing groups form an identity as they get to know each other.”
Group leader Carrie Nofziger, Archbold, Ohio, was pleasantly surprised by daily interactions.
“It’s cool to see love and friendship grow among groups of middle schoolers who didn’t know each other the day before,” said Nofziger.
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Junior highers almost triple seed money
One service project for the junior high gathering began long before the start of convention, when each student received a $5 bill in the mail. This was referred to as “seed money” as the students were asked to invest the money so that it might grow, just as a seed is planted in the ground and produces much fruit.
Students invested their money by buying gas to mow lawns, ingredients for a bake sale and tools for a car wash. The students grew the seed money from the original $1,200 to $4,368. The money was collected in an offering during the July 2 Discovery Celebration and will be used for scholarships to aid people who will travel to Pittsburgh for the next Mennonite Convention in 2011. —Heidi Martin