Jackie's Blog 2017

December 11, 2017

Advent is taking on a new meaning for me this year as I wait for the arrival of Baby Lerch.  Matthew and I have been overwhelmed by all of the love and support for this little guy from our church family. We are both very excited to able to take some time off together when he gets here.

I am so very thankful for my volunteer team and for their willingness to step in to help while I am away.  Last year we started a new sub-committee of Christian Education for our youth ministry and they will be holding the reins in my absence.

Parents and students can still expect to receive a weekly email update. We have a lot of really fun things happening this winter that nobody will want to miss! Coming up in the next couple of months will be the annual Ski Trip, a mission opportunity of making blankets, the Souper Bowl of Caring, a Unite Youth event, and of course, weekly youth group and Sunday School.

Claudia Holtzman will be taking the lead on our weekly Youth Group meetings, as well as guest appearances by Pastor Stephen for a couple of weeks. Please reach out to Claudia if you have any questions or if you would like to help out in any way. Our Youth Leadership Team will be working together to create lessons for their peers and to lead games. I am excited for this team to have this opportunity.  They are an amazing group of students who lead by example each week. I can’t wait to hear of the impact they will continue to have on our youth ministry. 

I plan on my last event being our Youth Group Christmas Party on December 17.  I will return to the office on March 13. Thank you to all of the volunteers and church staff who will keep this ministry running for our youth. They are a very special group to me and I am sure you will be blessed because of them. Have a wonderful Christmas and I will see you all in 2018!


November 2, 2017

I have been so thankful for the ministry of Unite Youth.  A small group of youth leaders in Hershey and Hummelstown started gathering our youth groups together in the summer of 2016. I don’t think any of us knew the impact it would be having in our community and individual ministries when this began.  

This past Sunday, we joined together at Fishburn United Methodist Church. We had over 100 youth in attendance from seven local churches. Each time we gather, the host church’s youth plan the event. At this event, we played games together, worked on a service project assembling 75 hygiene kits for hurricane victims, decorated paving stones to represent how we have overcome burdens in our lives, and had worship together. During the worship time, the youth carried their paving stones to the front of the church to create a giant cross. This cross will be installed on Fishburn’s property as a reminder of all the ways Jesus carries our burdens.

One of the things that really stood out to me on Sunday was when we were in worship. I was sitting in the front pew, but looked around the sanctuary to see all of our students from Derry scattered around the room. The different church groups were not sitting with the friends they arrived with: they were hanging out with friends from school, from their sports teams, and from their neighborhoods. I remember our very first event and students saying to me things like, “Oh -- that girl goes to church?!” Unite Youth has truly been uniting youth in our community. We have so many denominations represented, some youth who grew up in a church, some who are brand-new to their faith walks, and youth leaders who love teenagers.I love that we all were there because of Jesus and that we will continue to unite together because of Him.  


October 17, 2017

Maybe all of the youth leaders out there feel this way, but I think I have the best students. This past summer, I challenged our high schoolers to try something new and they took me up on it: they went on a short-term mission trip to Philadelphia, with expectations that were shattered as they quickly fell in love with the City of Brotherly Love. They sat down and shared a meal and conversation with people they would have otherwise walked right past. They had opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus as he broke their hearts to be like his. I couldn’t have been more proud of them.
Sometimes these mission trips can fade into memories until the next one comes along. But last week I got a text message from a student that blew me away. They sent me their college admissions essay. It was so heartfelt and moving to read, months later, how our week in Philadelphia made a profound impact on their life. Someone they met at the rescue mission taught them a lesson in empathy and inspired them to think differently beyond just that trip. I am so thankful to have been a part of that week with this student and to know its impact hasn’t faded.
The week we came home from this trip, we started our “Empower Derry Youth” fundraiser. Our church family filled colorful envelopes with donations in order to allow our youth to have more of these experiences. We raised approximately $10,000 toward our future mission and faith development trips.  This fall, 32 Derry Youth are attending their fall retreats and every one of them is going at a discounted cost thanks to the support of this fundraiser.  Thank you for believing in our students and caring for them and their families in this way.
This past Sunday, our youth began making handmade cards in order to say "thank you" to the 100+ individuals and families who supported us. They produced cards on an assembly line while they sang songs at the top of their lungs. Keep your eyes out for your thank you card in the coming weeks. A lot of heart and a lot of fun went into making them for you!


October 9, 2017

In my first full-time youth ministry job in 2003, I would mail monthly calendars of all of our events to our students.  I would also send home permission slips for those events and flyers they could share with friends. I would hang the calendars on a bulletin board in our youth room and encourage students to spread the word of our events to their friends by word of mouth in school.
This morning, I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook at 9:30 am, and two hours later I had 15 youth signed up to spend their day off from school at the church for pizza and games. It amazes me how quickly social media can spread a message and I am thankful that the result of that message is some quality face to face time for our youth group family.
It’s easy for any of us, youth or adults, to zone out behind a screen and get sucked into any of the countless forms of social media available today. It’s also easy for us to blame social media for making us anti-social. However, I find it pretty cool that a simple post could bring out a bunch of youth with nothing to do on their day off from school without a lot of notice.
We had a lot of fun together today. We ordered pizza from Fenicci’s to support the Derry Discovery Days fundraiser and played two of our favorite youth group games together. The youth room was loud and full of laughter. What we did today wasn’t earth-shattering, but it made me happy that our youth care about each other enough to put down their devices and come hang out and eat pizza together. We made memories together today. This is youth ministry.