The lights went low and a familiar theme began to play during Annual Conference as members of the Conference Youth Ministry Team rushed the stage with dark robes and bright lightsabers Saturday afternoon. “The Light Side” finished off “The Dark Side” before joining the group on stage to present reports and awards.
Josh Kennedy presented the award for Youth Worker of the Year, chosen from leaders nominated by local churches.
“The reality is that there are many gifted and passionate people who are working with youth throughout conference. Youth ministry is at the same time one of the most challenging and rewarding ministries to which one can be called,” Kennedy said.
The award was presented to Joel and Tosha Crawford and Marty Liberatore of California First UMC.
“One year ago we had no youth group, these three started it,” said the Rev. B.T. Gilligan, pastor of the church. “They had zero experience, zero budget, but a great love for Jesus and teenagers. Now we are averaging 12 to 15 kids each meeting. We had our first trip to SPARK (the annual youth weekend event in Pittsburgh), our first missions experience, and our first high school graduates. These three youth leaders have done the impossible and I couldn’t be prouder of them!”
Aaron Slavin presented the Pineapple Award, explaining that it was “established several years ago by YMT to recognize people who go out of their way to help youth see and follow Jesus. The recipient is selected by the youth at their annual meeting.”
The award went to Seward UMC and was accepted by church council member Bill Hayes.
“From helping us get work sites to providing food for us while we worked, they continued to go out of their way to make sure we could go out and help the community,” Slavin added.
YMT also celebrated Bishop Bickerton’s ministry with them and presented him with $2000 raised by the youth for Imagine No Malaria. The youth also gave the Bishop with a Chewbacca mask made famous in a viral Internet video, encouraging him to take his own advice to “lighten up, loosen up, and have a little fun.”