Two Powerful Weeks

Date Posted: 7/27/2017

After two weeks of togetherness at the annual Texas Youth Academy (TYA) in Austin, students and leaders alike are eager to share their ‘wow’ moments from an action-packed schedule that stretches their leadership muscles from sun up to sun down. Matthew Edison, member of Life in The City UMC in Austin, enjoyed his experience as a first-time mentor for TYA. Notes Matthew, “In recent years I have been impressed by the spiritual changes in our church youth that have attended this, so I was looking forward to being a mentor this year. However, my overall experiences have superseded my expectations as I observed these amazing young people sitting straight through seminary level lectures, grasping key concepts, processing these complex themes of doctrine, Christian heritage, and theology.” Matthew found himself looking forward to hearing the students’ feedback in the mentor groups each night. “I enjoyed hearing their prolific thoughts, questions and challenges – and seeing their desire to design and lead worship.”

Texas Youth Academy is one of the Emerging Leader strategies of The Texas Annual Conference, designed to cultivate relationships with young adults seeking to pursue ministry work. Year after year, students appreciate having this space and time to explore their calling. “TYA is a fantastic ministry experience,” says Noah Furr, Chapelwood UMC - Lake Jackson. “I hope this kind of resource is available for other conferences as, had I not been a part of the TAC, I would not have been aware such a great opportunity for youth. I enjoyed seeing and visiting with an array of students and adults. It opened my eyes to understanding that there are many people out there that are different from me.” 

The highlight for Haley Macha, Strawbridge UMC, was the opportunity to build community with her peers.I came thinking things were going to be awkward but we all became best friends on the first day of TYA. I expected the plenary sessions to be boring but they were actually interesting. We were told that the experience was going to be unique and indeed it was.”

Dozens of churches have been investing in the young by sending youth and mentors to TYA in recent years. Cassy Nunez, Renacer-Galena Park UMC, is thankful she was able to serve the students as a mentor. “Wow, the word Academy is so appropriate,” Cassy explains, “because TYA does an amazing job at making every activity in the schedule intentional -- from the morning prayer through breaks and even the meal times.” Cassy expected a type of camp in the city program, but was pleasantly surprised. She adds, “Texas Youth Academy is like a mini seminary-mission trip-intentional community.”

Most of the students really enjoy the arts and crafts sessions. “I had never created an art piece with the intention of being a spiritual practice,” Cassy shares. “The artists prepare every activity with such dedication to help the students hear what God is speaking to them; this is evident in each art piece.”

Participants thrived throughout the two-week session appreciating the daily themes, activities, and worship and a schedule that was easy to follow. “The diversity of the staff allowed conversations to go further into real life examples and it gave the students an opportunity to hear narratives from different people,” observes Cassy. Maya Malone  Blueridge UMC – Houston, gave it a thumbs up. “I enjoyed the sense of community and closeness we felt over the past two weeks,” she says, “and I am amazed at everything we have learned.”

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Cassy returned to her home church with plans to help get the word out for next year’s Academy. “I would urge pastors and youth directors to consider sending their youth to TYA. It is a program that will transform lives,” she says.