COLUMBIA — Stephen McBee, developer of youth ministries at Alive in Christ Lutheran Church, was talking to students Wednesday about peanut butter, Jesus and something called “squinkies” as they assembled in the Target parking lot before McBee set them loose in the Columbia Mall.
Then, groups of students from the Lutheran church, grades six through 12, began to run through the mall on their annual Man Hunt. They were gathering food and supplies for the Rainbow House and the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
The competition was organized as a scavenger hunt. Led by an adult chaperone, each group went to look for certain people stationed in the mall who would then hand them small plastic toys called squinkies.
“Every item you find is worth a million points,” McBee said to the groups.
In addition, groups were also asked to purchase jars of peanut butter for the Food Bank and athletics bags for kids at Rainbow House, which runs programs for children in crisis. Cheri Stoffer, one of the adult leaders, said the students used their own money to buy the bags and peanut butter.
Rock Bridge High School senior Haley Rohrer said she has been to a lot of different churches, but she likes the way McBee leads the youth group.
Rohrer got to the event a little late but was always one of the first to pull out her wallet when it came time to purchase items.
David Wilson, a junior at Rock Bridge, also said he loves the youth group.
“This kind of stuff brings us together,” Wilson said about the Wednesday night programming.
He said Wednesday nights have the fun activities that bring in teenagers who might not have a regular youth program.
The students didn’t seem overly concerned about who won the hunt when they met back up in the parking lot. They sat around chatting amicably, cracking jokes and talking about whom they would take to their homecoming dances.
Teenagers hanging out at the mall and discussing the politics of school dances is not unusual, but in this case, the Man Hunt participants weren't spending time or money on themselves.