WILLIAMSTOWN — On July 17, Our Lady of Peace Parish co-hosted a Fun Day, the second outing held for Monroe Teens for Christ.
The organization was created this spring to provide another avenue of opportunities for the young people of Monroe Township to grow in their faith.
A steady stream of teens and tweens climbed the slopes of the two inflatable waterslides that dominated the parking lot of Our Lady of Peace Parish. Small groups gathered around the always-popular dunk tank, eager to send their friends into the drink. Music mixed with shrieks and laughter as local church youth groups mingled on the summer Saturday Fun Day.
“Our goal is to bring Christ to teens through fun,” explained Kari Janisse, coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Our Lady of Peace Parish. “Our goal is to let the youth of Monroe Township know about the different youth ministry programs that are available to them right in their town.”
Inside the gym, the Fun Day opened with a prayer. Then the decibel level jumped as teams set up at the volleyball net and under the hoops. Several groups of students from St. Mary School waited for their turns at the sticky wall and the jousting ring.
For the students who will be in sixth grade this September, this was the first opportunity to participate in the parish’s youth group activities. Among the group were Michael Thompson, Kamryn Evans, Meghan Walker, Camryn Laughlin and Nicole and Megan Mason. They were looking forward to joining St. Mary’s youth group — and to events like the Fun Day.
Thompson explained one of the reasons why he and his classmates came out on the very hot afternoon. “I think we’ll meet new people and make new friends,” he said.
Dan Palmieri, youth minister at Our Lady of Peace, said that to promote the youth groups of the parish and this Fun Day event, leaders visited the fifth graders and other classrooms at St. Mary’s before school ended in June. They also distributed flyers during the parish’s annual carnival. Email messages and FaceBook were also used to get the word out.
A posting on FaceBook got the attention of two seniors from Williamstown High School. Nicole Crofton and Michelle Valme said that they dropped by to support the event. Other older teens and adults from across the township were recruited to help with the Fun Day activities.
Monroe Teens for Christ (MTFC) was started in March when youth group leaders from across the township gathered at the local McDonalds for a brainstorming session. The adult leaders and coordinators represented youth ministries from several Christian denominations.
Donnie Davis, youth minister from Williamstown Assembly of God, said that it was time to think outside of the box. His church held a meeting to help MTFC define their mission and goals.
“The kids have the same classes,” Davis said. “They participate in the same activities, play on the same sports teams.”
His hope is that MTFC events will provide an enjoyable and safe environment where young people can begin to recognize each other as Christians.
“Let’s give the kids the opportunity to get to know each other,” Davis said. “They’ll know they can talk to each other.” And with a huge grin, he added, “All of God’s kids should play nicely together.”
MTFC’s kick-off event was held at the church grounds of the Cross Keys United Methodist in June. Other MTFC participants are First United Methodist Church of Williamstown and the Williamstown chapter of Young Life, a network of community-based teen out-reach programs.
Palmieri said that the participating churches were committed to their new mission, to develop unity in Christ. To that end, each of the participating church communities equally shared the expenses of the Fun Day. They also provided information about the faith-filled and fun activities of their own youth ministry programs.
Davis is hopeful that other churches in the township will accept the invitation to bond together in the new endeavor.
Illustrating the spirit of MTFC, tenth grader Joanna Vecchio, who is a home-schooled student and a member of Our Lady of Peace Parish, said that this kind of event brings Christians together. “And it’s nice to meet so many people who have Jesus in their lives,” she said.