June 22, 2017

Jackie Lerch

Director of Youth Ministries

You may have seen the words “Unite Youth” in our youth group’s schedule in the church bulletin. This local ministry began meeting last summer and has really become a blessing in our community during this past year. When we started meeting, I don’t think we had any idea what a great impact these times together would have on our students.  

We kicked off this school year with an event held at the Hershey rec center the day before school started, and more than 200 students showed up!  It was so fun to see them all interacting with friends and acquaintances from school with the “Wait, you go to church too?!” looks on their faces. We played games and mixed up teams for a scavenger hunt that led everyone to the message that Jesus is the light.

As we continued to meet throughout the school year, we realized how many of our students had hurts in their lives and had friends who were struggling.  We wanted to keep bringing them the message of hope that Jesus brings. One of the unique opportunities that came together, thanks to the school districts in our area working together, was the “You Matter” event held at the Hotel Hershey.  Speaker LeAnn Hull raised awareness of the high rate of suicide and provided coping skills to deal with life’s challenges. “You Matter” has been a theme we have carried throughout our Unite Youth events.  You may have seen some of our students wearing bright yellow bracelets that say “You Matter” as a reminder to them and people around them.

Recently, Hershey High School lost another student to suicide. As a response to this tragedy, the Unite Youth leaders quickly pulled together a combined Sunday School class so that we could honor Simon Hoover and begin the Kindness Movement in our community. We painted rocks that share messages of kindness  -- look for them around Bullfrog Valley Pond and along walking paths in our town.

One of the things I love about Unite Youth is that we have many different church denominations represented.  Our different churches’ theologies don’t matter, only our students and Jesus. Participating churches include Derry Presbyterian, Grace United Methodist,  Trinity United Methodist,  First United Methodist, Fishburn United Methodist, Spring Creek Church of the Brethren, Hershey Free, Hanoverdale Church of the Brethren and St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church.  

I love that we can come together every few months and put on events where everyone is welcome.  Once again we’ll kick off the school year with an event on August 27, the day before school starts.  Please join us in praying for all of the students in the surrounding school districts, that they can begin the year knowing that they matter!