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Sewickley United Methodist continues children's activities nights

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Sewickley Herald
Children participate in a game of Pumpkin Bowling during Sewickley United Methodist Church's 'Kid's Night Out' program Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. The weekly program, for those in kindergarten through high school, includes dinner, games, Bible study and choir rehearsal. Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald

Learning more about God, increasing youth participation, singing and convenience were the impetus for Sewickley United Methodist Church's new activities night.

Held from 5:30 to 7:30 every Tuesday night at the Broad Street church, the free event combines several rehearsals and meetings that previously had been spread out over the week.

A portion of the program is focused on elementary students for a Kids Night Out. They meet at the same time as middle school and high school students, who call their group Teens Grow in Faith, or TGIF.

About 15 elementary students and about the same number of middle school and high school youth group members participate.

The night includes dinner, Bible studies, games, activities and choir practice for both groups, all in one evening. Youth group members in the choir will stay until 8 p.m.

All students have dinner together, but Bible studies and games and activities usually are separate.

The youth group, which includes both middle and high school students, is split when the Bible study portion of the program is held, because, Susie Moffett, coordinator of the elementary group, said, students that age are dealing with different issues in their lives. However, most of the other activities, such as rehearsing for the Wesley Chorale, they do together. Amy Scott, youth group director, runs the middle school and high school group.

“They really like her. She is the heart and soul of the youth group. A lot of times the kids will talk to her about issues they won't talk to other adults about,” Moffett said.

At times, the middle and high school participants help elementary school students with activities, such as the Halloween party.

The older children also will help with the elementary Christmas pageant, playing the parts of shepherds and kings.

The same night, the youth group also will be able to practice a skit members will perform during a series of Lenten dinners. In the past, the group had to meet on a separate night at the church.

At times, high school and middle school students go on field trips, such as a visit to the Bethany House in Pittsburgh's Northview Heights, which, Moffett said is located in a “difficult neighborhood,” and it serves as a “positive, safe place for kids to go after school for tutoring and activities.”

The students volunteer and develop relationships with the other students. They hold an annual Christmas party for them.

Church members also participate in an adopt-a-child program for Bethany and purchase presents for the children.

The idea for the combined activities night began when church members were trying to think of ways to develop the youth group to take it to the next level, Moffett said.

“The pastor (the Rev. Russel Shuluga) thought it would be a good idea to offer dinner and make more of an evening of it when the youth group meets.”

In the past, the group met only for one hour every other week, with middle school students meeting one week and high school students the other week.

As church members were talking about the new event, one also offered to start up a program for the elementary school children. They would meet at the same time, and it would get them more involved, which never had been done before, Moffett said.

There are about 10 volunteers who help with the program. During the evening, parents can run errands, or, at this time of year, they can go Christmas shopping.

The combined night is convenient for everyone, Moffett said. “It give us flexibility. It's a safe, fun place where the kids can learn about God, make music and make friends, and their parents don't have to worry.”

The consolidation of the activities seems to have brought in more participants. Moffett said. Some come just for certain parts of the evening, such as dinner, but not choir practice, and Moffett said, “That's OK.”

She said one boy doesn't like to sing, so he never would have come to just choir practice on a different night, but now he does the other activities and is serving as as a stage manager for the elementary Christmas pageant.

“He works with the props and tells people where they should be standing. He's now involved in a way neither he nor I would have thought of.”

The program is open to anyone, not just members of the church, and there is no cost. Donations of food are welcome, but not expected, Moffett said.

Traditionally, the youth group has not met in the summer, but, Moffett said, it is still being decided whether the new system will continue this summer or have another type of schedule with monthly activities such as picnics or a pizza night.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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