Asia Frye is the coordinator for junior youth convention in Orlando this summer. She’s a retreat speaker and former youth pastor from Hillsboro, Kansas. She looks forward to graduating from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary this May.

Y’all, I am so pumped about convention. Orlando 2017 will be my fifth convention and my first time to work specifically with the junior youth. I am excited to engage the Junior Youth in our convention theme: Love is a Verb. The junior youth will examine how God’s love for us calls us to respond by Loving Ourselves, Loving Others, and Loving Creation.

Junior youth convention is more intimate than the senior high experience — almost more like going to camp because we spend our whole day together. We have worship, small group, learning experiences and hands-on activities. Junior youth is unique in that some come with groups, while others come with a parent or adult who is serving as a delegate or some other capacity at convention. All youth are included and welcomed.

Junior youth is exciting because we are both big and small. Of the few thousand people at convention, about one hundred are junior youth. This means we get to participate in all the BIG exciting things that convention has to offer — a mission project, the recreation hall, total group worship — while still being small enough to get to know each other. This size of group allows us to do hands-on activities. Our mission project will allow us to explore loving creation and loving others. Youth will have opportunities every day to contribute to worship. We will be offering a bunch of learning opportunities to choose from, so youth can experience God in ways they find exciting.

The greatest hope that I have for junior youth convention is that it will be a faith formation event. It’s a great opportunity to help our youth grow their faith in a distinctly Anabaptist atmosphere, especially for youth who do not live in an area with other Mennonite Church USA churches. It’s an opportunity for our youth to connect with other believers from around the country, and be shaped by caring adults within Mennonite Church USA, outside their home congregation.

Youth: Why should you come?
Fun: We. Will. Have. That.

We will play in the rec hall. We have several large group activities (like a scavenger hunt) planned.

Friends:

Maybe you will come with people you know or maybe you’ll come alone. Either way, you will leave with a bunch of new friends.

Faith:

Want to know more about how to follow Jesus? We will show you. Want to pick activities that help you grow in faith? We are offering things like journaling, skits, art, active prayer and Bible study methods. So you can choose what you’re interested in.

Worship:

Do you like when interesting speakers talk to you about stuff that matters? We have them. Do you like to sing? Sadie Gustafson-Zook is all over that! Do you like to help with worship? You will have the chance.

Service:

As a whole group we will leave the convention center to do a mission project in the city of Orlando.

Parents and churches: Why should you send your youth?

Our faith must be practiced in order that it might grow; convention is an ideal way to give our faith time and attention.

I think of the crowded summer schedules of my own children. We send our children to sports camps to become better players and teammates, to hone their abilities. We send our children to art and music camps to become better artists, to learn new skills, to think creatively. We sign them up for teams hoping they will develop a lifelong passion for the game and exercise. We hope for them to learn from adults they encounter who are more practiced than they. We send our children to swimming lessons because they are fun, but also to learn a skill that can save their life.

When when we send our children to convention we are having them practice the skills of what it means to be a Christian. They learn new faith skills and practice to improve. They encounter and learn from Mennonite thinkers and leaders. We hope to instill them with a lifelong passion for seeking Christ. They learn to work with their Christian brothers and sisters in love. We teach them creative ways of encountering God.

Ultimately, we hope, convention is part of the road they take to encounter Christ: the encounter that truly saves their lives.