If you’ve been around Kingwood UMC’s student ministry any length of time, you know that the big events are pinnacles of the group. The UMARMY camps, mission trips and retreats are weeks and weekends reserved on the calendar that many students and their families look forward to each year.
These opportunities for set-apart service and time with the Lord are well known around here.
Yet, there’s another side to the student ministry that is subtler; a side that may not hold the evident preaching power but one that does hold the power to impact students’ lives little by little.
This quiet but transformational side of the ministry can be seen in the Awaken gathering. It’s a sacred time of prayer, bible reading and listening to the Lord during which KUMC students take their shoes off at the door and step onto holy ground, expectant for the Holy Spirit to move.
Clint Wyllie, KUMC’s Student Ministry Director, explained that the vision for this time is reminiscent of an “Upper Room” atmosphere that encourages students to go deeper in their faith without the typical youth group games and large-group teaching.
The student department started this simple gathering with a few students in the summer, sometimes providing prompts for them and sometimes letting them pray and just be led by God. It has since evolved into a once-a-month meeting during the school year.
Part of the intent is to show the students that they can connect with the Lord at any time—that He is accessible not just on the “spiritual high” moments of service trips and retreats, but also in everyday moments.
Shelby Emerson, KUMC’s Associate Student Ministry Director, said that while those larger-than-life occasions are important, the students’ faith can be impacted just as much by humble meetings with God.
“If students can notice that the Holy Spirit is real in Kingwood, Texas and not just in Costa Rica or on the Fall Retreat, then they can bring that into their schools,” Shelby said.
For example, high school senior and youth ministry student Sophie Priesmeyer said that because of Awaken, she incorporates more prayer into her friendships, finds herself thinking about what Jesus is teaching her more often, and has even been challenged to pray out loud.
“It brings a different side to the youth group dynamic. When I was in middle school and early high school, we didn’t have this. You’d go to youth group, hear a message, and wait until retreats to have those really powerful moments. But now, you don’t have to wait to dive in more. (Awaken) brings the power into a regular day,” Sophie said.
She’s talking about the regular days—like the summer evening when Sophie and her friends held an Awaken gathering in her backyard—that have been transformed by the expectation that God will meet them right where they are.
That was also a goal of Awaken, Shelby said: that little pockets of these informal gatherings would pop up as students take ownership of their relationships with the Lord.
Clint echoed that sentiment, saying that when the students come to the realization that they can interact with the presence of God, it opens up doors for them.
“If we teach our students nothing else but to encounter God and gain guidance and wisdom from Him, if they realize there’s more to life than sitting in a church pew and hearing a pastor tell them what they should be learning—that they can encounter and meet with God and sit at His feet—then we’ve really hit the mark for discipleship,” Clint said.