The programs for youth at Raleigh Court Presbyterian are focused on a central theme found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
These verses are read to second graders when they receive their Bibles from their church family and for years it was recited by our youth as their mission statement every Sunday evening. Yes, educating children and youth in the faith is a directive from God and a responsibility to the next generation that RCPC takes very seriously.
The RCPC youth program is one that focuses on building a relationship with God, with one another, with our church family, and with those in need. The youth meet every Sunday evening from 6:00-8:00 primarily in the church. The structure of their time together has varied over the years, but the format involves having a time of fellowship over a meal prepared by parents or members of the RCPC congregation, participating in youth led worship services, sharing their faith through small group Bible studies, and by being of service through monthly mission projects. There are times of recreation built in as well.
From 1997-2012, the RCPC youth program followed the Logos Ministry model, where youth in middle and high school participated each Sunday in an intergenerational experience with the evening broken down into four parts, meal time, Bible study/worship, recreation /mission, and worship arts (for those interested in singing in the youth choir.) While RCPC is no longer a Logos church, a similar format continues. The evening begins with youth eating together with their adult leaders. (The adults involved in facilitating youth group have ranged in number from 6-12 on Sunday evenings depending on the year and number of participants. The number of youth participating has ranged from 20-45+.)
Over the years the worship services for youth have been facilitated by pastors, adult volunteers, or the youth themselves. Within the last 20 years, the adult leadership team made the intentional decision to involve the youth in the leadership of worship, which has taken various forms. Published skits or skits written by adult volunteers were given to the youth to present and discussion followed on the topic presented. In subsequent years and currently, one or more of the adult leaders work with a small group of youth prior to youth group night to help them understand the topic for discussion, the corresponding Bible passage, and the applied meaning for their lives. The youth, under the leadership of an adult, plan and then facilitate the worship service. The small group lessons that are written by the Director of Christian Education correspond to and expand on the theme presented in the worship service and provide opportunities for deeper discussion and authentic application of Christian principles.
The youth participate in monthly mission projects. A sampling of the mission projects include Hunger Busters to collect food for the Presbyterian Community Center, Crop Walk to collect money to help alleviate hunger locally and abroad, Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child, to provide gifts for underprivileged families at Christmas time, activities that supported area ministries like the Rescue Mission, Roanoke Area Ministries and West End Center (an organization that serves impoverished children and youth.) The youth have collected clothing and food for our city’s Homeless Assistance Team, participated in the 30-hour famine to gain understanding and compassion for the hungry of the world, written personal notes to graduates and homebound senior citizens, participated in programming for the annual youth sponsored Veterans’ Appreciation Dinner, participated in providing items for and stuffing Christmas stockings for our church’s backpack program for lower income children, and supported the Ronald McDonald tab top collection program to support families of serious ill children receiving medical care in local Roanoke Valley hospitals. The youth provide service within the church by providing leadership in Vacation Bible School each summer and winter, working in the nursery, serving as acolytes, and completing tasks they are called to do within the church walls (cleaning, painting, raking, etc.). Again, this is only a sampling of the many mission opportunities in which they have been involved. In 2004, the youth made a commitment to pledge $1000 between the months of December through May to help pay down the building fund debt. They accomplished this goal by bringing in their lose change every Sunday evening, forgoing buying sodas and coffee to save their money for a cause bigger than themselves. They learned what a difference young people can make when they work together for a common goal.
Our youth participate in team building retreats and faith building summer camps and conferences where their faith and their bond of friendship grows and flourishes. During the years of our Logos involvement, high school youth went to Logos Conference East where they spent a week with youth from other churches located in the eastern part of the country. The youth began attending the Montreat Youth Conference in 2011. Attendance there started with 6 youth in 2011 and has increased to over 20 in attendance each summer. At Montreat the youth worship and study and play and learn with more than 1000 Christian youth from all over the country. Each year our youth describe their Montreat week as a mountaintop experience where God’s presence is felt in life-changing ways. Middle school youth have participated in the Massanetta Springs Middle School Conference and Planet Wisdom.
RCPC youth also participate in mission trips. Middle school youth have participated in Mission Roanoke where they help out with local ministries in the area and more currently CROSS missions where middle school youth participate in week long city mission opportunities in Charlotte, NC. The high school youth have participated in week long mission projects through an organization called Youth Works where they have served the needy in Steubenville, Ohio, Queens Borough, NY, and Taylorsville, N.C.
A variety of recreational activities have been provided for RCPC youth over the years including bi-yearly lock-ins, ski trips, activities such as miniature golf, laser tag, trampoline park, mountain biking at Carven’s Cove, trips to Busch Gardens, hiking, etc.
Since 2016, the ministries of youth group have been and continue to be rooted in the following four tenets:
1 God loves you no matter what.
2 God created you to love others, to serve others, and to make a difference in the world.
3 God wants a relationship with you.
4 We know who God is and what God wants because of Jesus Christ.
The Directors of Christian Education who have worked with our youth since 1990 have been Margaret Norris, Mary Lea Hartman, Susan Kessler, Anne Travers and Leigh Sacket. During this time period, we have had three Associate Pastors oversee youth activities, Alex Moses, Josh Robinson and Bart Smith. We have had several paid part time youth directors as well, Sally Johnson, Bill Whitaker, Janné Joy, and Neely Barnhart. While RCPC staff oversight has been provided over the years by these individuals, the RCPC youth group program has been primarily a volunteer run ministry. The tremendous success of RCPC’s youth program has been a result of dedicated volunteers, parents committed to nurturing the faith of their children, and amazing young people eager to grow in their faith and to strengthen their relationship with God and each other.