By Cassie Archer,
The youth room at University Covenant Church has walls lined with photos. The happy faces in the pictures reflect the faces in the room. Music plays in the background as people talk and laugh and every person who walks into the room is welcomed with warm smiles.
Summit is a youth group for high school students. Every other Tuesday, they gather at the church from 7-9 p.m. to play games, worship and listen to a sermon. Youth pastor Alex Wright says that Summit is a safe place for these students to ask questions and grow in their faith.
“While remaining distinctly Christian in its approach, Summit is open to people of all faith backgrounds,” Wright said. “We acknowledge that we are all on a journey of trying to figure things out together.”
Wright said that it is important for teenagers to have a safe environment to talk about faith issues, and that Summit provides that environment.
Junior Sarah Sherwin has been going to Summit for a little more than two years and agrees with Wright.
“I feel safe, and understood and like I fit in,” Sherwin said.
One of Sherwin’s fondest memories is of the most recent annual mission trip that Summit takes during spring break. This year’s trip was to Mexico, and according to Sherwin the majority of the people who went got sick, and therefore were unable to work. Rather than letting this ruin their trip, Sherwin said that they helped each other, talked, and developed strong friendships.
“To anyone, [getting sick] might sound miserable,” Sherwin said. “But in this case it was a great bonding opportunity.”
Junior Kiara Shuster has been a part of Summit for at least eight months. Her first impression of the group was that the people were welcoming and lively and that everything seemed very organized.
“It almost seemed like I was walking into a new family,” Shuster said.
Junior Eric Smith has recently started going to Summit and has had a positive experience so far, saying his favorite parts are the conversations he has with people.
“It’s hard to create a sermon that’s directed to the younger generation,” Smith said, but he thinks that Summit is able to do that.
The sermons are given by college students or young adults who also lead small groups. Small groups are split up by grade and gender, and these groups gather at someone’s house on alternating Tuesday nights.
Small group leaders, like Barb Paulson, one of the junior girls’ leaders, help create a good environment and community. Paulson has been involved with Summit for around ten years, and thinks that a safe place to ask questions and encourages community.
Junior Denali Martinez thinks that the people in Summit are an important part of what makes Summit great.
“We’re very happy people,” she said. “We’re very open to everyone.”
Wright believes that Summit can make a difference in people’s lives.
“Nearly everybody faces the daily struggle of wanting to know that they are truly loved for who they are, without condition,” Wright said. “It’s remarkable when teens come together in community and love each other.”
Sherwin and Martinez have seen changes in their lives because of Summit.
“I’ve become more confident in myself,” Sherwin said.
According to Martinez, just “knowing that people love me” has made a difference in her life.
Since Shuster started going to Summit months ago, she realized that the community has showed her that she can open up and trust people.
“Summit has brought me people I wouldn’t have found outside the church,” Shuster said.