Daily activities, challenges planned for youth, young adults at online General Synod
Daily challenges. Dynamic speakers. Different tracks focused on music, writing, drawing, storytelling and dance. Small group check-ins. Game nights – and even escape rooms.
The youth and young adults taking part in the United Church of Christ’s Special Edition General Synod will have two to six hours of daily programming over the course of seven days, designed just for them. Synod, to be held online July 11-18, 2021, gets started a day early for the young people with an “unboxing ceremony” Saturday, July 10, at 3 p.m. EDT.
Registration for this biennial event opens in May. Costs for youth (high school age and younger) run $150. The fee for young adults (high school graduates through age 29) will be $100. The agenda is listed on the Synod website. Complete details of the Youth and Young Adults programs can be found here for youth and here for young adults.
Placed in ‘home groups’
The welcome ceremony for youth and young adults kicks off at 3 p.m. EDT Sunday, July 11, before opening worship. Programming for young adults begins Monday, July 12, at 2 p.m. EDT, with a daily hour focused just for them. Youth programming begins at 3 p.m. that day with the first daily small-group gathering.
“To help youth process life, faith and what occurs during Synod, they’ll be placed in a home group, or small group, that will remain the same for the week,” said the Rev. Trayce Potter, UCC minister for youth and young adult engagement. “There will be an adult facilitator to help guide the conversation and offer support as needed.”
Potter, coordinator of both these Synod programs, said the young people will answer questions during registration that will help organizers place them in those home groups. The questions include social and geographical markers to try to prevent one from being “the only” of any kind in their group. Organizers also hope these groups introduce youth in close proximity to make continuing friendships more possible.
Youth and young adult programs have been scheduled around the main blocks of Synod worship and business, giving participants time to both participate and process.
“Our youth will have a concentrated time each day where they can connect with their peers outside of the main Synod schedule,” Potter said. “We have organized our time around daily themes that guide the day’s activities through a plenary presentation. Then youth have the opportunity to select a workshop that builds around the main theme for that day.”
Themes, ‘daily challenges’
The themes — different ones for youth and young adults — start Sunday, July 11. There will also be daily challenges built around each theme, plus plenary sessions, workshops and small groups.
Here’s a youth challenge preview: Spell out “God’s Love” using objects from around your house, and post on social media. Now, the preview of the young adult challenge planned for that same day: Choose an issue of justice you are passionate about and plan to put up a yard sign. What would your sign say?
The programming differs with the age group. For the first time in recent memory, Potter said, organizers created a track intentionally focused on young adults.
“The planning team has worked hard to create a space where young adults aren’t grouped with the youth anymore, nor are they having to find spaces to fit in,” Potter said. “The young adult program gives this group the opportunity to share, learn and experience life as they see it everyday.”
That group will deal with these themes:
- Sunday, July 11 – God’s Love in Ourselves
- Monday, July 12 – God’s Love in Relationships
- Tuesday, July 13 – God’s Love in Justice
- Wednesday, July 14 – God’s Love in the Environment
- Thursday, July 15 – God’s Love in Diversity and Differences
- Friday, July 16 – God’s Love in the Ordinary
- Saturday, July 17 – God’s Love in the Extraordinary
The youth program will follow these themes:
- Sunday, July 11 – Rooted in God’s Love
- Monday, July 12 – Rooted in God’s Identity
- Tuesday, July 13 – Rooted in Creativity
- Wednesday, July 14 – Rooted in Liberation
- Thursday, July 15 – Rooted in Creativity, Part 2
- Friday, July 16 – Rooted in God’s Creation
- Saturday, July 17 – Youth Showcase (no theme)
Art workshop choices
During the Tuesday and Thursday creativity times, workshops will give the youth opportunities to engage in the arts. They can sign up for one of these sessions, mentored by a group of diverse creative leaders:
- Music – Refresh Collective, with neighborhood recording studios in Cleveland, helps kids flourish through hip hop, building confidence through collaboration.
- Improv and Storytelling – Valerie Tutson is an award-winning storyteller who shares African American history through stories and songs.
- Art – Kristin Putney, artist and minister of faith formation for the Southern New England Conference UCC, can offer unique experiences for faith building through art.
- Dance – The Rev. Kelsey Peterson Beebe, minister and professional dancer, aka – the ‘Dancing Pastor – can help youth express themselves through movement.
- Writing – Rachel Hackenberg, managing editor of the Pilgrim Press, and Bentley deBardelaben Phillips, executive associate, Justice and Local Church Ministries, can offer assistance in honing writing skills.
Organizers have also lined up speakers from the UCC national and Conference staffs, along with local pastors and ecumenical guests. The complete list will soon be posted on the Synod website.
Which apps to use
Youth and young adults will meet using the online platform Zoom for main sessions. But they will also be able to connect with each other at any time, using the Discord app. Both Zoom and Discord should work well on any device once one downloads the apps.
Potter said organizers want to make several Discord channels available for youth and youth group leaders. A question-and-answer channel, a message and chat board, and an interactive site with presenters are planned.
“This will allow youth to post, reply and check in throughout the day and even during time leading up to Synod,” Potter said. She hopes that allows them to build relationships and have their questions answered without the need for email.
And don’t forget the social activities, with three nights planned just for fun. Young people have the option of joining Game Night, trying to outwit an Escape Room, and participating in an end-of-Synod party.
“I’m excited about the youth and young adult programs because this is what National Youth Event was scheduled to be last year,” Potter said. “Essentially we have created two weeklong mini-Synods for young people to connect, resource, engage and learn from each other and from other people who are passionate about equipping youth and young adults to lead the church into the next phase of ministry in the 21st century.”
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