COLUMBIA — A new youth activity is debuting at New Life Community Church this weekend. Boys and girls between the ages of 13 to 18 have the opportunity to participate in a sleepover and camping trip on Friday and Saturday.
Youth Pastor Aaron VanderMolen organized the activity. This is the second event he has held since he joined the church in June.
Several boys and girls will be participating in this weekend’s activities. The night will start with a bonfire, after which boys and girls will separate. The boys will stay for camping with VanderMolen while his wife, Sarah, will take the girls back to their apartment for a sleepover. A brief Scripture discussion is planned for the group.
There is no cost to participate. VanderMolen is providing the camping gear. Marshmallows and other campfire food will be provided, and a church member volunteered his property for the activities.
“You definitely want to make sure that you have other things for students to come to where they feel like they don’t have to pay,” VanderMolen said. “You want to vary it, so there’s opportunities for everyone to participate and be part of things.”
Lead Pastor Tom Ragsdell hopes that more positive activities will be offered. Two of his sons, Luke, 17, and John, 14, are participating in the camping trip.
“They’re looking forward to it,” Ragsdell said. “They’re talking about it, looking forward to going out and having a campfire. It’ll be a new thing to hang out with the youth group on an outing like this.”
This is the first year a sleepover and campout have been offered to the youth. VanderMolen hopes to build trust and a sense of community within the group.
The group will meet Friday at the Activity and Recreation Center, where church services are held. Columbia public schools do not have classes Friday, so the students will not miss any school. Additionally, a men’s breakfast will be held Saturday morning.
“I definitely know that making connections with students and doing adventurous type stuff makes an impact in a life,” VanderMolen said. “My goal is to have one thing a month that we’re doing together as a group outside of church.”
VanderMolen plans to hold a service day and a video game tournament and attend a youth convention before Christmas.
“We’re pretty excited as a church to have a youth pastor who can offer these types of activities for our students,” Ragsdell said. “He’s constantly encouraging our young people to reach out to their friends and provide positive and safe activities for teenagers to do together. So, we’re excited.”