In October of 2022, the Three Forks United Methodist Church hosted its first event for the newly created Scrapyard Student Ministries Youth Group, with 11 students participating in a pumpkin carving event. A year later, the group had 40 youth at a pumpkin carving event in 2023, and, according to Pastor Sara Lattimore, around 50 students have entered the doors of the church annex to participate.
After the church welcomed Sara and her family in July of 2022, one of the first things they asked was if they could start a youth group. Sara said she and her husband Aaron began planning for a first gathering.
According to Sara, the adult leaders were sitting around a table of pumpkins that night, wondering if anyone would show up and what building a youth group from scratch would take.
Much to their surprise, she said local youth came and carved pumpkins together and began building relationships, the foundation of what the group would become.
"If only numbers were important, this could be deemed a success to have grown 400%. But Scrapyard Student Ministries is more than just participation numbers. It's about creating a safe place for youth to come and to build RAVE (Real, Authentic, Vulnerable, and Empowering) relationships with their peers, adult mentors, and Jesus," Sara said.
The game of the group is based on 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"
"Sometimes we bring our broken things to a scrapyard to leave behind, and sometimes we go to a scrapyard to find things to rebuild into something new. Our hope for the youth in this community is that they can find a place of belonging and support that empowers them to become who they are created to be. We hope this youth group can be one small part of that journey," Sara said.
The group meets each week, where they are served a meal and participate in games and lessons.
"So far the group has had a focus on relationship building and developing a firm foundation. This year, we tried our first public fundraiser with our Christmas Tree Sale at the Christmas Stroll. We were so surprised and amazed by the support from the community to make this successful for the youth. We are planning to offer more opportunities for service and interaction in the community, and there are hopes to coordinate a mission trip and camps in the future," Sara said.
The designated group leader for Scrapyard Student Ministries is Aaron Lattimore, who Sara said will be the first to say it takes parents and students to make the group successful.
According to Sara, Aaron has served in youth ministry, as a youth sports coach, in juvenile corrections, in schools working with at-risk youth and special needs youth, and most recently in the schools in Three Forks.
"He has dedicated his career to serving youth and hopes to continue his education and goals to serve and mentor youth while empowering them to discover their potential and to continue to grow and dream despite any struggles they may face," Sara said.
For Aaron, it has been a great experience to see the group's growth over the past 14 months.
"It is humbling to watch the students show up week after week, committed to being here and even willing to invite their friends. The growth is because the students find it meaningful enough that they want to include others. This is what it is all about," Aaron said.
The group has also gained participants from neighboring communities.
"We even have students from Manhattan that have found belonging and welcome in the group. My hope is that this is a place of belonging that can unite us even in the face of good old school rivalries. There are so many places in our world that we can be divided. It gives me hope to find places where we can find joy, belonging, and unity," said Pastor Lattimore.
Scrapyard Student Ministries meets on Wednesday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Three Forks United Methodist Church Annex and has a preteen group for fifth and sixth graders and a middle school and high school group for fifth to 12th graders.
The youth group will wrap up 2023 with a pre-Christmas gathering on December 13. The event will feature an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party with snacks and games for students and families. The gathering will include prizes for the most festive outfit and the ugliest Christmas Sweater. The group will restart after the New Year on January 10, 2024.
Sara said if parents or community members would like to get involved, to email her or Aaron at [email protected]. Safe Sanctuaries Policies will apply to adults working directly with the youth.
"From cooking a meal to helping coordinate fundraisers and community service, to mentoring our youth... we have different ways to get involved and serve the youth of our community through Scrapyard Student Ministries," Sara said.