Love God? Serve A Neighbor in Need
By: Sherri Gragg
Service to church and community is a hallmark of youth ministry at St. Paul’s UMC Houston.
Service to others is a Wesleyan tradition. In A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley wrote, “One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And since He is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve Him in our neighbor.” The youth of St. Paul’s UMC have long embraced Wesley’s call. A heart of service is intentionally woven into the way they approach both their faith community and their neighbors in need.
The “Souper Bowl”
The youth of St. Paul’s UMC Houston know how to throw a Super Bowl Party. Festivities begin the Sunday morning of the Super Bowl as volunteers move the risers, sofas, and bean bags into four levels of “stadium seating.” Then the competition begins as teens divide into teams for a Bible and Super Bowl trivia battle. Losing teams have a chance to redeem themselves later on in the evening in a rematch before kickoff during the annual Super Bowl party. Students who want to be with friends for the fun night, but don’t want to sit through the game, often retreat to the church gym for games. “The kids really look forward to it,” said youth pastor Tiffin Wilsford. “Often, we have some kids who we haven’t seen for a while come back for the Super Bowl party.” The food and fun surrounding one of America’s biggest sporting events are a big annual draw for the youth of St. Paul’s UMC, but as they celebrate they also observe a tradition of service.
Each year, the youth lead their congregation in participation in “The Souper Bowl of Caring.” The Souper Bowl of Caring is a faith-based organization that seeks to use the energy and excitement around the Super Bowl to fill food banks across the country. This year, St. Paul’s collected over two hundred non-perishable food items to benefit the Emergency Aid Coalition and the Houston Food Bank.
A 20-Year Tradition
Next Sunday, February 11th, the youth of St. Paul’s UMC will continue their tradition of service in their annual youth-led worship services. For the past 20 years, the youth of St. Paul’s UMC have served their congregation during one Sunday each year by leading all aspects of the church’s three worship services. Each teen is urged to participate in this day of service in some way, whether it is by serving as an usher, reading the scriptures, offering their witness, or in leading in prayer. Additionally, a combined choir of the Choral Scholars and the Treble Choir will lead the congregation in worship.
When the notes of the last hymn of Youth Sunday fade away, the students of St. Paul’s UMC will have only begun a year of service in which they take part in mission events on a local, national, and international level. The teens also serve as mentors for St. Paul’s after school program.
Wilsford believes Wesley’s call to serve God through service to others is essential to the personal and spiritual development of his students. “Service,” he said, “encourages youth to take leadership roles and give back to the church.”