Here is the list of breakouts coming to SPARK 2018!


Girls Only: 2018 Resolutions Covenant

  • Heather Shoffstall, Youth Leader at Grace UMC in Somerset and YMT adult advisor)

What will 2018 hold for you? Have you made a resolution?  How about a covenant with God? Whether you need to renew your covenant or begin a new, Heather will help you find your “word” for 2018 that will assist you in focusing on your relationship with Jesus and define you for the New Year.  Let’s Resolve to follow Jesus in 2018!

About Heather: 

Heather Shoffstall wants to live in a world where wizards go to Hogwarts, Marvel heroes don’t have civil war and where ice cream is one of the food groups, but since that world doesn't exist she will settle for what she has. As a mother of two awesome children, Grant and Kendra, she spends quite a bit of time as a dance mom, but also makes time to be the youth leader of her favorite youth group Faith on Fire of Somerset, Pa. When she is not playing taxi, Heather enjoys reading, sewing, and spending time with friends and family. Relying on the knowledge that “she can do all things through Christ who gives her strength.” 

Built to Build: Guys Only

  • Pastor Seth McPherson, Christ UMC Bethel Park

When it comes to our society and culture, young men are given so many scripts to live out, so many words to describe who they should be... but God has a plan for them to build goodness and righteousness into the lives of others. It's not too early to start -- and it's going to take some training. However, each one of you, men, is built to build.

About Pastor Seth:

Seth McPherson was once a young man - his three daughters remind him that he's not now. Associate Pastor of Christ UMC in Bethel Park, he lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with his wife, Heather, and their three daughters. When he grows up, Seth would like to be a double for Neil Patrick Harris in action movies. His true and real passion (Seth, not NPH) is cultivating others to live into God's Awesomely Big Loving Story.


I Want to Know More About the Conference Youth Ministry Team!

  • Wiley Bozada and other Youth Ministry Team members

Join members of the conference youth ministry team and find out more about what the YMT does and who they are. Play some games and activities and get answers to questions like, "What is the YMT?" "How do I join?" "What types of things do you do?"

About Wiley:

Wiley serves as the YMT Vice President and has lots of great ideas about YMT. He is a junior in high school in the Avonworth School District. He is on the swim team and loves serving his community. He loves coordinating the dodgeball tournament at SPARK every year as well!


The Food and Culture of Zimbabwe

  • Sandra Matoushaya, Zimbabwe Partnership Coordinator

Mauya (Welcome)

Zimbabwe (Great Houses of Stone), a place of wonder and great hospitality. Come and learn more about the people of Zimbabwe, the food and culture. Learn about the home of the Seventh Natural Wonder of the World, the Mighty Victoria Falls. Come and have a great time and sample some tasty treats.

About Sandra:

Sandra Matoushaya is a native of Zimbabwe and coordinates the Western PA Zimbabwe Partnership. She has always had a desire to help as many people as she can, in particular people from Zimbabwe. After receiving her Masters degree in international development, she had hoped to work for an Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) or non-profit to gain experience that could be applied in Zimbabwe. But God had other plans for her by providing the opportunity to work on the Conference staff. With the partnership not only does she assist in fundraising for projects in Zimbabwe, but helps to build relationships between Christians in both her native land and the United States.


How to Hold on to Jesus in College 

  • Pastor B.T. Gilligan, Nixon UMC and WPAUMC Higher Ed Chair

This breakout is designed for high school seniors or anyone who wants to know how to keep faith in Jesus when everything is brand new and we are finally on our own!

About Pastor B.T.: 

B.T. Gilligan is the pastor at Nixon UMC and serves as the chair of the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. B.T. attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, receiving a degree in Criminology in 2004 followed by an Masters of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2011. Currently B.T. resides in Butler, PA with his wife Amanda and children Samuel and Olivia.


Therefore GO: With HOPE Through Offering Christ

  • Sharon Gregory, WPAUMC Lay Leader

The voices of our Youth are valuable and must be included at the table of ''Holy Conferencing Conversations" on issues facing the United Methodist Church. If we are committed to the mission of the United Methodist Church,  (to make disciples of Jesus Christ), and the WPA Five Areas of Focus...our assignment as Laity is... "Offer Them Christ". I invite you to join me for a time "Holy Conferencing Conversations" to share our ideas and hopes of bringing the light of Christ to all God's children.  REMEMBER, YOUR VOICES ARE IMPORTANT!

About Sharon:

Sharon Gregory answered the Laity Call in 2001. She is a passionate member of the organized unit of the United Methodist Women. She has served on Local, District and Conference Levels of the United Methodist Women from 2002-2014. She currently serves as Western Pa’s conference lay leader. She is also currently employed as the Administrative Assistant to the Center of Online Learning at the Community College of Allegheny County. Her passion and love is for ALL GOD's children. Her commitment is to share the story, so for those who don't know Christ will come to know Christ and the UNCONDITIONAL love he has for all of us. As children of GOD, we must be content to be the simple sheep and listen for GOD's instructions. 


What’s the Big Deal? A Discussion on Racism and Empathy

  •  Andrew Chung, YMT and UMC Global Ministries board member, and Sarah Gallagher, YMT

Join Andrew and Sarah in a discussion about racism in our world today. Youth will learn about what factors still contribute to this existing problem and how they can learn to recognize and combat it in their everyday lives. This includes using empathy to understand others and exploring cultural differences between the diverse families that make up our church. 

About Andrew and Sarah: 

Andrew is the YMT Treasurer and a member of the Board of Directors for GBGM. With GBGM, he is a member of the Committee on Eliminating Institutional Racism. Out of church (Otterbein UMC), he is involved in the Robotics Club as a junior at Greensburg Salem HS and enjoys playing the violin.

Sarah is a previous YSF Coordinator and has been involved in YMT for 3 years. Within her church (Garden City UMC), she has been involved with the church choir, Christmas cantata, and as a helper for children’s Sunday school. Outside of her church, Sarah is in the marching band and golf team as a junior at Gateway High School.


Creative Ways to Show God's Love to Your School

  • Travis Deans, Co-executive Director of Teens for Christ

We are all called to share God's love with people but that can be intimidating for most of us. But what if you could share God's love with your school in fun, creative ways and with a team of people supporting you? We will explore ideas that students in the Pittsburgh region have used in recent years to do just that.

About Travis:

Travis Deans is a part time youth pastor and also the co-executive director of Teens for Christ; a ministry that equips teenagers to share Christ in there schools. Travis is married to his wife Judy and has three kids.

Telling your Story

  • Josh Price, SPARK Worship Leader from The Woodlands UMC, TX

Come and hear Josh share part of his story that showed him even more of God's grace. He will also help you craft your story and encourage you to share it with others!

About Josh:

Joshua Price is an acclaimed worship leader and recording artist, whose passionate heart for ministry impacts all he does.  Formerly on staff at Houston’s Second Baptist Church, Joshua currently leads worship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church. In addition to serving at his home church, Joshua and his wife, Deanna, frequently minister at churches, conferences, camps, and other venues across the country. He has a huge heart for working with youth and young adult and is also serving as our worship leader at SPARK.


Leaders Only: Discussion on Book Growing Young 

  • Amanda Gilligan, WPAUMC Young People's Coordinator

How can churches reach younger people? What does the research say? The book, Growing Young, has answers to these questions and more. Through the Fuller Youth Institute, this book includes both research and practical ideas on how we can help our churches grow young. The book is written by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. It's definitely worth the read!

About Amanda Gilligan:

Amanda Gilligan serves as your Conference Youth Coordinator. She has been in youth ministry for over ten years and has helped plan many different events in the conference. She is looking forward to encouraging the youth leaders and youth of Western Pa and discovering how to best come alongside them to help make disciples for Jesus Christ. She is married to B.T. who is the pastor at Nixon UMC in Butler, Pa and has two children and one pet rabbit.

How Has the Church Handled Controversial Topics in the Past?

  • Bishop Cynthia Moore- Koikoi, Resident Bishop

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have been charged to lead the denomination in finding a way forward in light of our current theological and social justice differences regarding homosexuality.  Bishop Moore-Koikoi will share an historical context for the ways in which the Methodist Church has navigated diverse perspectives.  She will provide information about the process the church is undergoing in order to find a way forward in the midst of our current differences.  Finally, the bishop will share the ways in which the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference can have an impact on our way forward as a denomination.

About Bishop Moore-Koikoi:

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi was elected as a bishop of The United Methodist Church by delegates to the 2016 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference. She began her assignment to lead United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania on September 1, 2016. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Loyola College in Maryland in 1988, and a Masters of Arts and advanced certification in school psychology from the University of Maryland in 1992. She worked as a school psychologist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools for 17 years, serving in leadership roles as a layperson before answering her call to the ordained ministry. Bishop Moore-Koikoi said she sees herself as a bridge-builder, clear and confident about what she believes, while respecting others who might not believe the same way. Her vision is of a diverse church that embraces justice and the life-saving love of Christ.


Fun Rooms (open in the evenings):

  • Dodgeball (new schedule this year!)
  • Nintendo Wii Room (brand new this year!)
  • Gaga Ball and games
  • Jam Room (bring your guitar and jam out with others)

Special Rooms (open throughout the weekend):

  • Prayer Room
  • Youth Leader Lounge
  • Mission Room
  • Vendor Hall (new this year!)