“We are so blessed to be in Platte, South Dakota today, where senior high and junior youth groups get together on Wednesday nights to celebrate their community, their faith, and each other. It’s a special story about stewardship at the highest level,” said KELOLAND On The Road Host, Mike Huether.
“Not everybody goes into a church building on Sundays, but they feel loved and they feel welcomed here. And when that happens, it is like a rock thrown into a stream. It just bubbles out,” said Harriet Sybesma. “It is giving them a good base to go out into the world,” Sybesma adds. Harriet Sybesma, a lifelong resident of Platte, South Dakota reached out to KELOLAND and me. Her faith, and Platte’s investment in their junior and senior high youth, called her to do it.
“Wednesdays is youth group night. It is what we do on Wednesdays. It is something we can. It is a lot of fellowship so it is not hard to miss,” said Dillon DeHaai. Dillon DeHaai, a senior at Dakota Christian outside of Platte, is a big fan of Senior High Youth Group. So is Platte High School Senior, Elizabeth Olsen. “That is what they look forward to every week is youth group. Just going and getting to spend time with your friends and listen to the message,” said Elizabeth Olsen.
This truly was started in Platte thanks to the leadership and stewardship of Dr. Lance Griese about 17 years ago. He was inspired after attending an “Acquire the Fire Conference”. The young people that were there with him from Platte wanted even more. “One of the kids said it would be awesome if this could be youth group every week and Lance heard them,” said Cindy Lucas. Current Platte Community Junior High Youth Group Coordinator, Cindy Lucas, could not be more pleased with the teamwork within the community. “It is not just churches collaborating, parents collaborating, denominations collaborating, it is the community as a whole. The schools, the businesses, they are collaborating to make this youth group, junior and senior highs, something really, really special,” said Huether. ” Yeah, we are truly blessed, said Cindy Lucas.
Students, mentors, leaders and stewards from 10 different churches, denominations and even towns work side by side to make this a reality for their young people. “We have a ministerial association where the ministers of our town get together, and they have a phenomenal relationship with each other. Where they are willing to work with each other and that has come through, through youth group also. They realize the importance of small town. We’ve got to support and we got to work together,” said Harriett Sybesma. “Platte is not a very big town, so if you think about how many high schoolers are in each church, if each church had their own youth group there would be like 10 kids there. I know it wouldn’t be as fun as the entire community together,” said Elizabeth Olsen.
Trust is a driving factor as well. “You need the trust and it takes the churches have to trust each other. The churches have to trust the leaders. The community. The kids. You have to listen to your kids too. Our kids asked for it and we found a way to bring it to them,” said Cindy Lucas. The volunteers and the student mentors are the lifeblood of the youth groups. “They have the same mentors every year through junior high and then they get different mentors for high school. And so you build that relationship and you have played with them, you have cried with them, you have laughed with them,” Cindy Lucas said.
Their volunteer efforts make a definite impact on these young lives. Just ask Elizabeth. “I don’t think they would ever realize how much of an impact they had on us. It is definitely something that has helped me so much through high school. Just doing it ‘cuz I know it is very rewarding for us, as well as, for them. So, I think it is super cool that more people should definitely get involved,” Elizabeth Olson said. “With such cool loving mentors, that they just want to come back and be refed every Wednesday night. Not only fed on Wednesday nights, many of these mentors, they can see them throughout the week. They go to their concerts. They go to their football games,” said Harriett Sybesma.
The love and impact of these mentors can carry on long after high school graduation, too. “It is not just a Wednesday night thing. It goes on and on. There is lots of kids in college now that still get a telephone call from a former mentor saying “How are you doing? You know I am praying for you, how are you doing?” So, it is an ongoing thing. They are being fed in their hearts where they need to,” said Harriett Sybesma.
Young people find power and inspiration from the youth group experience to carry them through the good and bad. “I am sure people laugh in youth group, do people cry?” asked Huether. “Yes. Yeah. And it is not like something to be ashamed of. I guess, like no one judges you. It is just there was a powerful message. It can definitely convict you and bring you to tears but you know, they will console you and just help you through it. And you can cry together. (long pause),” Elizabeth Olson said.
The people of Platte want to share their love and success with your KELOLAND town, too. “If you love your youth groups and you would like to talk to the mentors and the leaders of Platte. They would love to visit with you and help get something started in your town,” said Harriett Sybesma.
“Stewardship,” commented Huether. “Stewardship,” agreed Sybesma. “Sharing your time, your talent, and your treasure. Your recipe for success in Platte. KELOLAND, here you go,” Huether said. “We’ve been blessed,” Sybesma said.
As in much of KELOLAND. Wednesday nights are “church night” for the students in Platte, South Dakota. Whether the activities involve playing a game, or listening to an inspirational speaker, I have no doubt that every student who takes part finds the true spirit of stewardship that is the heart of this small town.