Church #14. Meet Mike Markwell. He is the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Shepherd of the Hill Lutheran Church. Located in Lockport, Illinois, this congregation worships 180-200 people on a given Sunday.
Situated on a hill, this congregation is a product of two churches that merged in the 1960’s. For the past three years, Markwell, who is currently a Master of Divinity student at LSTC in Chicago, has been with them.
During Markwell’s first year, he noticed something. It’s a truth that happens in many congregations, where families equal confirmation as graduation from church life. Confirmation at Shepherd of the Hills is strong. But once confirmed, Markwell noticed that only around 10% of the high school students stay involved.
What to do about this? Markwell along with the youth ministry team began to look at the calendar. Together, they evaluated all their programming options. The school year was already in place, and summer weekends were packed with family time. But the desire to try something new was important.
When suddenly, Markwell asked, “Why do youth ministry programs take the summers off?” This was the Aha! moment for them. Yes, there is confirmation camp and a mission trip in the summer. But his team tried a new thing by starting a WEEKDAY ministry geared for students entering 6th-12 grade.
With overwhelming success, it’s called F5: Faith, Friends, Fellowship, Food & Fun. F5 runs one day a week for 12 weeks over the summer. It has three cornerstones including Bible study, a service project and a fun activity.
Inside this program, Shepherd of the Hill has seen in uptick in Middle School and High School Ministries in the summer. With students hanging around church and getting involved, each week, they serve, play and build relationships. It’s been a beautiful thing.
Sometimes as church professionals we don’t stop or take the time to evaluate our ministries. We keep plowing ahead with the same old – same old. But when something does not work, shouldn’t we dismantle it, rebuild and try something new? Shepherd of the Hill did just that with great success. It’s a reminder to be brave.
Why does trying something new matter? It matters because of what happens in Mark 1, Luke 5 or Matthew 4 when Jesus calls the first disciples. Jesus called them to try something new, to take a chance on following the gospel. We carry that tradition forward as continue to gather and equip God’s faithful people. By spending the day together, Markwell and students go deeper into God’s word and develop lasting friendships. It’s eight hours together is time well-spent.
For more information on this story, contact Mike Markwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-838-0708.
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