Meet Hannah Cooley. Hannah Cooley is a 2nd-year Graduate Resident at CYMT who serves at University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, TX. Hannah recently took her youth group to Camp at Mo Ranch in Hunt, TX where she was able to serve alongside her coach and CYMT alum, Christina Moore, as well as Dalton Baker, second year graduate resident who serves at Mo Ranch. We took some time to find out about Hannah’s experience at camp. Check it out.
My favorite time of the year as a Youth Minister is definitely the summer. The school year is great and I love the opportunities we have for weekly youth group and other events. But during summer, I get to spend more time with my students, take them to lunch, just have fun and show them I’m there for them outside of youth group. I also love seeing kids in camp settings. I think camp is like a different world for students; there isn’t the pressure from home or any expectations other than that the kids have fun, meet new people, and get to know themselves and God better. I’ve seen kids grow more in their faith and confidence in a week at camp than months in youth group, and I love being witness to those moments.
Because we were there for the Teen Leadership Conference, my highlight was seeing my kids slowly step into and completely take over the leadership roles they chose. By the end of the week, everything, including worship, games, and music, was being run by our students. My heart was bursting with so much joy watching them support each other and figure out how to be good leaders with each other.
I think kids desperately need camp experiences as an escape from the craziness of the world they live in. Our students deal with a lot of real and heavy things, from mental illness to difficulties at home to struggling with school. I’ve seen and experienced camp as a time of emotional, mental, and spiritual rejuvenation. While the tough things might still be there when they get back, at camp, students can focus on what feeds their soul; relationships with each other and God.
My biggest win at camp this year has to do with the fact that I have the best job in the world. I get to watch these kids love each other and the Lord and support them as they grow and learn to stand up for and believe in themselves. I saw so many students who didn’t want to participate in the beginning or didn’t think they had anything to contribute become such strong leaders over the course of the week. Every time I watched them in front of us, I could feel the Holy Spirit around us, and I could see that my students felt such pride knowing all that they accomplished in the name of God. If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is.
I hope my students are able to get back to some sense of normalcy that allows them to be fully in community again because I know they deeply crave those connections. I hope that whatever events we do this summer fill their souls with joy, and that when it is time to go back to school, they can trust that they have the opportunity to find those joyful moments around them everyday, because God is with them no matter what they face.
The Center for Youth Ministry Training (CYMT) recently received a $1.19MM grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., to fund the next phase of the Innovation Laboratory. The grant will enable CYMT to strengthen the Innovation Lab by building on what we learned from our original cohorts and tweaking our process and strategy for greater impact.
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