Youth Ministry Winter Workshops
Youth groups around the country dedicated their winter breaks from school to gathering as a community and sharing the unforgettable experience of a winter workshop. These workshops are designed for participants to be challenged, to bond with their peers and emerge stronger in their life of faith. Thanks to the Cranes Scholarship, which raised $1400 this year, 28 of the youth were able to participate with the help of a $50 scholarship. Here are some highlights from workshops around the nation:
Midwest Winter Workshop: “Life Is Beautiful”
This was a great workshop filled with love and laughter. Forty-five participants attended from all over the Midwest region, and even Chicago and Arizona. This year, the theme of the region’s workshop was “Life Is Beautiful.” On the first full day, participants spent time out in the nature of northern Wisconsin skiing and reflecting on how they each uniquely experience God’s love through our own spiritual styles and “God languages.”
On the second full day, they did a reflection activity and shared on the past year of 2015 and the experiences that made that year beautiful. They then set new goals for how they wanted to make this new year even more beautiful. Putting into practice what they had learned from guidance that morning about the beauty of relationships and team building, they had an incredibly creative gingerbread house competition surrounding the theme of the workshop.
Finally, the group re-gathered at the end of the day to share their experiences and enjoyed each other’s warm company through an exciting open mic and talent night.
New England Winter Workshop: “Fire Within”
As with many of the high school winter workshops, the New England workshop staff wanted participants to leave the workshop feeling as if they had a choice to choose their faith, and a choice to make decisions about their lifestyle.
“By empowering and placing trust in them, we were able to evaluate what healthy and unhealthy choices we were making in our lives,” described a staff member. “We gave them the space to explore and deeply question their faith with the hope that some of their questions can be answered during our workshop, as well as after our workshop from their continued search of their relationship with God, True Parents and our movement.”
Another key highlight was an emphasis on treating each other with unconditional love, persevering, and striving for unity despite differences.
“We let the youth have the space to express themselves while maintaining the stance that above all else we can still love and support each other,” said the staff.
“I’m really glad that I gave four days of my winter break to attend this workshop,” said a participant. “I feel like I learned so much from my older brothers and sisters. Their experiences and stories let me view my life of faith in a whole different perspective that I wouldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for them. I started to think deeply about myself and my relationship with God. I also feel more confidence and strength. I truly feel like I’ve grown so much in the course of these four days. It’s been an incredible experience I will never forget.”
“We went over so much content about stoking your inner fire and growing it passionately,” said another participant. “We realized we were capable of anything because it was our choice and learned how to not be affected by our circumstances but to create things instead. This experience was very enlightening.”
Near the end of the workshop, the group had a fire declaration and used paper lanterns to ask for the universe to help with their declarations. This was internally empowering and visually stunning.
“We emphasized to our youth a lot that they were valuable, special and loved and they deserve to live a big life and that the world needs them to go for their dreams and not to play small,” explained a staff member.
Bay Area: “Find Your Voice”
The Bay Area’s winter workshop explored tradition, focusing on the Four Great Realms of Heart. Staff member Sho Omori led an impactful evening activity that allowed participants to write a letter to their past self. The prompt was, “At a time of challenge and difficulty, what is it you needed to hear from your future self?” Experiences were then shared within groups; each participant could see that they are not alone in grappling with the challenging moments in their lives.
Notable presentations were given by Paul Nojima, who shared about the Fall of Man and the importance of brother-sister relationships, and Pastor Kevin Thompson who conveyed True Parents’ course from 1920-2020.
There were many fun and engaging group activity rotations, sports and the ever-present tradition of Capture the Flag.
Participants developed new friendships and rekindled and renewed old bonds.
“The Winter Workshop is a tradition for our community and a valuable opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and create determinations for the year ahead,” said one of the staff.
“The workshop reminded me of how blessed I am to have so many things passed on to me,” said a participant. “It improved my life of faith and my relationships with people.”
NY/NJ Winter Workshop: “Be Awesome”
Port Murray, NJ
This workshop began with all the participants dividing into small groups. The participants first had to find out who their teammates were by assembling a puzzle, then the pieces came together to form a map for each team indicating where their team leaders were located.
Throughout the workshop, they spent a lot of time within these groups, having fun and bonding through different activities. A highlight was for them to be able to share deep and meaningful moments with their fellow brothers and sisters. The staff held sharing exercises that allowed participants to be vulnerable and practice empathy. They also had a challenging workshop-wide activity in which participants had top support each other to accomplish a goal.
“Being able to celebrate extravagantly in their victory was also a highlight,” said one of the staff. “Everyone became a lot closer in their teams and felt energy from that.”
Camp KOHOE: “Terra Firma”
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Camp KOHOE had another successful year, their main highlight being their Challenge Day. Participants broke out into smaller teams in which they could get to know each other better. Activities provided team bonding.
Staff member Immanuel Rinkema spoke on confidence, and other staff members also gave guidance to participants.
“I can really relate and feel the staff’s testimonies will help me in the future,” said a camper.
“They gave a lot of insight on individual feelings and the overall matching process,” remarked a camper on a lecture about the Marriage Blessing and engagement process. Overall, the campers felt a sense of brother- and sisterhood with the staff, who mentored them and answered their questions throughout their time together.
Camp Amare: “May the Force Be with You”
One of the early highlights of this camp was “If You Really Knew Me,” an opportunity for the participants to take a risk and share whatever was on their heart with their teams. Many people got vulnerable, and some even expressed their love for their teams.
Another highlight was playing Bubble Soccer, which involves playing soccer while wearing giant bubble suits. Many laughs were exchanged as people were bumped to the ground.
One of the most popular activities was called “Post on Someone Who,” in which one-third of the participants sat down on chairs and closed their eyes, while the other two-thirds would post a sticky note on the people sitting down and write their answers to questions like “What do you admire about this person?” or “What do you think God would be most proud of about this person?” They then switched who was sitting and closing their eyes.
“It was a very moving experience seeing the love in the room, and the sense of community that got created within four days,” said a member of the staff.
“At the beginning of camp, I was very anxious,” said a camper. “I usually avoid people and situations where I have to interact with people. Others helped me through and I made some pretty great friends and had a great overall experience.”
“Out of all the workshops I’ve attended and staffed for, I think Camp Amare had the most impact on my perspective and my heart,” said a staff member. “I really appreciated how practical, interactive and empowering the educational aspect was and the opportunity to apply this approach in my offering. I always felt the support, trust and love of the other staff members and the sincerity of the participants. I could actually recognize my growth and the growth of others as the workshop progressed. I’m really glad I was able to be a part of it!”
DMV Winter Workshop: “I Know My Roots”
The D.C./Maryland/Virginia (DMV) area held one of four themed workshops, which they rotate through so that high school students have a different workshop experience every year. This year’s workshop theme was “I Know My Roots.”
“I was personally so impressed by the kids desire to go deep and experience true ownership over their experience at our workshop this winter,” said a staff member. “Every day the content got deeper and the kids grew closer, and by the end of it I felt such a strong feeling of family.”
Participants who were normally timid were able to open up during their time at the workshop, some even performing at the open mic night and challenging themselves like they never did before. “This testifies to the love and energy that was created at our workshop this year!” said the staff.
Texas: “Winter Bash”
Twenty-six Unificationist youth and six dedicated staff from Texas and Arkansas gathered for a Winter Bash program in Dallas. Slightly different from their usual workshops, this event was concentrated over three days. The staff decided to incorporate Greek Mythology into their program, under the premise that the mysticism of the gods were eventually challenged, and their intents for humans were questioned.
“We believed this would create a comfortable atmosphere for people to question or test their own faith,” said one of the event organizers.
Several guest speakers from the community came to talk about their experiences in their pursuit of a life of faith. They also heard from their District Pastor, Rev. John Jackson, about what one can do to help deepen their faith. In addition, two Generation Peace Academy graduates held a Q&A panel.
On one night of the Bash, they incorporated a small challenge night portion. The activities were internal, team-oriented, and reflective, and provided a healthy challenge for participants to better understand their personal faith.
They finished the Bash by taking everyone to see the new Star Wars movie.
“We didn’t promote this Bash heavily because it was experimental, but I believe everyone had a great experience,” said a staff member.