"I am:" the Focus of Shaw Tabernacle UMC Youth Conference

Date Posted: 12/11/2014

Doing what would seem impossible for a small church, Shaw Tabernacle UMC, Houston, found a way to launch a puppet ministry and host a unique two-night youth conference that continues to generate buzz.
Receiving often begins with asking, as youth leaders from Shaw Tabernacle UMC, Houston recently discovered. “Two years ago the youth department volunteers and leadership committed to building a better and stronger department that is centered on creating a platform for freedom in Christ,” shares Youth Director Cornelia Jammer. “Our mission was to create a youth ministry that allowed participants to worship Christ in various art forms; music, dance, puppetry and more.” However, he adds, “Our inspired youth movement started with no funding and no friends, but, with help from our congregation and a push from our Pastor Rev. Jim Berry, over the last year we have gained partners, built relationships and created friends that believed in our mission to Invest in the Young.  With this mission before us and the challenge to our team from our senior pastor there was no stopping the Dream Team as we put our heads together to plan several new initiatives.”

Shaw Tabernacle was awarded a $1,000 grant from Young People’s Ministry, a UMC discipleship program, to begin a spiritual fine arts program to help children and youth understand the teachings of Christ through the arts. (Young People's Ministries is geared for young people aged 14-30 and for those in ministry with them, to underwrite grants, scholarships and consultations that support young people in their Christian walk.)
Through creative fund sourcing, Shaw Tabernacle was able to partner with Children’s Ministry Resources International for over $500 of supplies for the building of a puppet ministry to help this mission come to life.

In collaboration with several partners, churches and organizations, Shaw Tabernacle had the opportunity this fall to host a one-of-a-kind conference incorporating elements of everyday life to share the teachings and message of faith. Adds Cornelia, “Our young adult volunteers and other ministry partners fused together to engineer a conference that should have been impossible for a small church. However, as the word of God shares in Philippians, We can do all things through Christ.” 

Cornelia shares that the October “I AM” Conference has since been the catalyst to a movement of God-fearing, charismatic young people ready to evangelize to the world about the greatness of God. She says young people of all ages attended the community wide rally shouting, “I am beautiful! I am smart. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am loved. I AM…BECAUSE GOD IS!”

This two-night youth conference focused on purpose and redefining potential in the participants. Adds Cornelia, “With this mission before us and the challenge to our team from our senior pastor there was no stopping the Dream Team. We had amazing guests, talk-shows, inspired worship experiences, mad give aways, a hula-hoop contest, Deal-or-No-Deal games and more.  From the laser lights to the fog, the children and youth experienced an amazing God who loves them beyond their faults and embraces their needs.” Over the two nights about 130 students attended from a number of different churches as far away as East Texas.

The ministry Dream Team also includes Youth Director Traci Henry, Javodrick Warfiled, a life coach who donates his time each year, Worship Leader Jazmine Berry, Creative Director Jasmine Cruise-Adams, Music Director Trini Green, percussionist Jordan Berry, Hospitality Chair Thelma Washington, Prizes Donor Ruama Camp, Financial Advisors Charles and Glenda Cruise – and a host of other volunteers and friends of the ministry. The set and staging was designed and donated by Cornelius C. Jammer, Jr. and Gwendolyn Berry was responsible for the Friday night teen talk show element. 

Leaders report that some of the attendees shared that they will be better students, better daughters and sons, sisters and brothers as a result of their involvement.  Sherissa Blount, one of the young adults who attended the conference, tweeted that church can be a great party for God. Lakewood UMC, Houston, Director of Student Ministries Eddie Erwin adds, “It was a big hit with the youth. On the evening I attended they had singing, worship, prayer, dancing, games, testimonies, food and even a video game truck.”

Cornelia, who aspires to be a youth minister someday, shares that, “The I AM Conference was an amazing experience that allowed our kids to reach God at levels that would seem impossible in a regular service opportunity. Our special guest performer on Friday night was Mr. Jason Bowens, a seven-year-old who gave God the ultimate praise. His grandmother and mother shared that he wanted to join this church because he loved how we praise -- and have fun at the same time.”

That “fun factor” at the conference included an art bar where students and adult helpers made their own shirts, illustrating their acceptance of their purpose and God-given uniqueness. Additionally, a game zone included a gaming truck that seats 18 youth inside, and a game system on the outside equipped with dancing and other games. Adds Cornelia, “ Our pastors, life coach, volunteers and parents were dancing along with about 60 students outside and all were having a ball. We also had the bobble head video station this year that included the opportunity to make videos and take them home – which was a popular activity!” 
In essence the conference mission for investing in the young is imperative to the longevity of our churches but also to the further of discipleship for the call of Christ. “As one of the youth directors, I can truly say that the entire youth ministry Dream Team works tirelessly to ensure that the church experience for our youth and children is one that is unforgettable, leads them to the cross and guides them into a righteous and holy life.  It is our goal to continue to offer this conference and share this opportunity with other small churches and communities who want to create better kids doing better things and living a life pleasing to God.”