Sixteen-year-old Chicago-area twins, Jae’O’na and Jae’Bel Middleton, grew up attending camp meetings with their parents, Jeff and Donna, and noticed something striking that happened over the years. Each year, they noticed fewer and fewer of their peers attending. “There used to be a time at camp meeting where it wasn’t just workers going up [front to minister],” says Jae’Bel who remembers the wide cross-section of people she saw participating. “Now a lot of who are going up are workers or pastors’ kids.”
However, instead of griping about the lack of youth involvement, the Hyde Park Church members decided to do something. Jae’O’na talked to the Lake Region Conference (LRC) Youth director, Jason North, and asked if she and her sister could host a forum for the youth and LRC leadership team, to which he agreed. “We kind of just started talking about how we as youth felt as though we’re left out, but we understand what’s going on and we’d love to be a part of our churches and be more involved,” Jae’O’na said.
Youth between 10- to 30-years-old attended the meeting to voice their opinions. That meeting birthed the Youth Council, a 10-member group passionate about giving the LRC youth a voice to ensure that camp meeting reflects their interests.
Most council members are from the Black churches, but a few are from the Hispanic and Ghanaian churches; despite having their own separate camp meetings. The group started strong, meeting once a month from June to September 2018. They worked on the “Sweet 16 and Elite 8 Super Youth Weekend,” as well as youth rallies held this spring in the Chicagoland, Illiana, Michiana, Motor City and the Hispanic FEHJA areas.
In addition to camp meeting speaker recommendations, they also have plans for possible outdoor activities (volleyball courts, basketball courts, swimming pool), and new activities for camp meeting.
Since many of the members are in high school or college (the twins are homeschooled), the group hasn’t been able to collectively and consistently meet monthly. Nevertheless, the team remains in contact and all are still trying to make sure they are included when planning youth events for camp meeting.
The Youth Council is accepting new members; youth can be as young as 10. For more information on how to join the council or to contact the Middleton twins, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.