by JEN GRAY
Special to the Daily Press
Youth-run, youth-fun, a great benefit for younger side of Craig. The Soul Center Youth Group, sponsored by the Assembly of God Church, is a youth-run organization providing character-building and soul-searching opportunities to local youth.
These students meet three times for regular weekly events, including a Wednesday night youth service, a Push or Pray Until Something Happens service on Saturday nights or a Sunday morning discipleship/leadership class.
"To a lot of kids, the Wednesday night youth service is their weekly Mass," said youth leader Alexis Miller.
The 6:30 p.m. service provides a youth-oriented time that is held by youth leaders with topics fit for teenagers.
They have their sermon, usually performed by Angela Vesely, worship time, and they also use this time to advertise their next coming event. These nights are usually themed to try to tie everything together and are open for anyone to attend.
During the Wednesday night youth service, students can anonymously submit ideas for the Saturday night Push' activity. This begins at 7 p.m. and gives students the opportunity to pray together about a certain topic and a place and time for their own special prayers. This is also open to anyone and is usually kept really casual.
"Our goal is to provide a positive alternative for the youth. I really believe we have an environment where they can really be themselves, get help if they need it, and just have fun," Vesely said.
On Sunday mornings, before the regular service, youth can learn how to grow in different areas of their lives.
Committed to, and currently running the program, are two local youth leaders. Tysha Ross and Vesely organize as the co-operators of the Soul Center Youth program. Supporting them are younger leaders, such as Miller, Keith Kutnar, Brandon Shipman, Christy Bingham and Krissy Penrose, to name a few. The leaders meet on Sunday nights to plan special events and work on the next week's Wednesday service.
Each leader in the group has specific responsibilities. Miller is responsible for special events and fundraising and Penrose does administrative duties for the group. Kutnar and Bingham work on the dramas performed throughout the year, and the Soul Shack' which is the church's snack bar.
The group holds a unique bond. Between different weekly services, and special events, they also enjoy playing as the softball team Stone Rollers.
They also take leadership retreats and go camping.
Moving on from the leadership programs, guides often find themselves continuing their involvement.
Ross said she hopes to attend a Bible college this January, where she will get a degree in church music and media productions.
Vesely will remain in Craig and attend to the group, while taking courses by correspondence with a Bible college, where she will work to become a certified youth pastor.
Both youth leaders agreed this was a great self-development program.
"I learned to work with people, stretch myself, and learn to deal with my own insecurities," Vesely said. "Because you have to work with yourself first."
They set goals for themselves as well as for the program.
"We want to help kids, teenagers mostly, to find their own potential and to learn to be able to help themselves," Ross said.
Special events for community
The team recently succeeded in booking and holding an S.O.K. concert held at the Assembly of God Church. S.O.K., a Christian rock band, out of Denver, performed a free concert on July 16.
Currently in progress, the group is creating a skate competition, to be held at the local Skate Park. It is for any students in the community between the ages of 12 and 19. There will be a small entry fee but winners will get prizes up to $100. The group tried this competition earlier in the year, but would like to try again and get even more participation. Helping them, was J & R Cyclery, which donated to the last competition.
Annual trip has global impact
Every year, the Assembly of God church puts together a group of students to go to Mexico. On this one-week trip, the youth put on Christian dramas, puppet shows in Spanish and catered to the children of Mexico.
This trip takes place during their spring break, and they work on it from December until they arrive in March. In the last two years, the students have helped build an orphanage and then were able to go back and visit the children there. The team is still distinct in the community, with their shirts that say "Yo Creo," which is Spanish for "I believe," which they also sported in Mexico.
The Assembly of God Church, located on Ninth Street, sponsors the youth group. While it is held in the church, Pastor Dave Ross lets the youth run the organization.
"Pastor Dave wouldn't put them in charge unless (Tysha and Vesely) were capable," Miller said.