A Place of their own: Lewis-McChord church youth groups support military children
April 13, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- There are times when military teens just want something non-military.
Teenagers are well accustomed to frequent moves and adjustments growing up in the military, and Bryan Holloman has learned teens look for a place to latch onto. The Protestant youth minister is part of an organization that addresses that niche and is available to all military teens.
Club Beyond is a chapel youth program on 40 military installations in Europe, across the Pacific and the U.S., including Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"We call it Club Beyond because we know our kids are going to leave and they're going to go to another base," Holloman said. "We want them to be able to recognize and locate the ministry that's at that base."
Club Beyond is open to all military teens, regardless of religion and affiliation. Its purpose is to connect adolescents with friends and faith in a fun environment. JBLM's Club Beyond offers a club for middle school-aged and high school-aged teenagers that meets weekly.
The 60-90 minute meeting involves games, snacks and a short talk about a specific topic, usually related to the life of Jesus.
"Its purpose is to be a place where any kid can hang out who may not know who Jesus is, and get that spark of being introduced to who Jesus is in a non-threatening environment," Catholic Youth Minister Tim Greer said.
Greer represents the Catholic youth ministry on JBLM and Holloman represents the Protestant youth ministry, with Club Beyond serving as the nucleus of the ministries.
Club Beyond for middle school teenagers is held every Monday. Meetings on the first and third Monday of the month are at the Four Chaplains' Memorial Chapel at 5 p.m., while meetings on the second and fourth Monday are at the McChord Youth Center at 6:15 p.m.
Once a month Club Beyond plans a big group activity such as skiing or a Seattle day trip. The group also plans annual overnight camps and retreats. The teens are also involved in monthly service projects with Habitat for Humanity.
"What separates us from a typical youth group is we really focus heavily on relational activities," Holloman said.
The current high school-aged group is very mature in their faith, according to Holloman, and currently meet on the first and third Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Chapel.
Holloman is working on developing student leaders out of them and more in-depth bible studies will be made available later this month.
Greer offers more in-depth programs as well for the Catholic side. He leads Life Teen, a high school program, while Ryan Flannery leads Edge, the middle school program.
Greer's mother used to be the Fort Lewis Catholic youth minister and his father is currently the deacon for the JBLM Catholic community. Flannery's family retired at JBLM and he grew up at the parish. Both Greer and Flannery's experiences with military teens helps them relate to those in their programs.
"We teach the church from a contemporary perspective that is down to earth and realistic to where the kids are in their lives," Greer said. "The kids are embracing the fact it's OK to be involved in church. It gives them a sense of hope when they have parents go through deployments. It's the comfort of knowing there is something there that can support you."
Life Teen and Edge meet Saturday evenings and Greer also offers a weekly bible study Wednesdays at the Evergreen Chapel at 5 p.m. The group studies a daily reading and discusses the historical context and how it relates to teens today. The group then watches a recent secular movie followed by a discussion after.
"What we want for youth group is for it to be exciting for them to learn about their faith," Greer said. "We figure kids go to school Monday through Friday and the last thing they want to do is come to church and be in school."
There are about 30 teens involved in the Catholic ministry and nearly 70 in Club Beyond and counting.
"Kids come primarily just to have fun, but at the same time they're doing healthy things with us," Holloman said.