Teens invited to statewide, Covid-adapted church drive-in event

The annual fall event for West Virginia United Methodist youth may be taking a different form this year, but teens throughout the state are looking forward to Fall Workshop.

Plans are underway for the Council Conference on Youth Ministry to host a live, drive-in style event at 18 sites across West Virginia from 6 to 8 p.m., on Nov. 21. 

United Methodist Temple in Beckley and First United Methodist Church in Princeton are host sites in southern West Virginia.

“This is all the vision of young people,” said Rev. Shea James, director for Young Disciples and Outdoor Ministries for the W.Va. Conference of the United Methodist Church. “What they decided was that they did not want to do something virtual.  They have enough of that with school and extracurricular activities.”

They wanted to have fun together, and they wanted to somehow encapsulate the spirit of their traditional fall weekend, safely.

For more than 50 years, UM youth have gathered every fall at Cedar Lakes Conference Center for a weekend of youth-led fellowship, worship and workshops on a variety of topics ranging from scripture studies to geocaching. Due to the pandemic, that entire weekend has been condensed into two hours.

“It’s a fun chance for our students and for young people in each community to get together and play games and have some time for worship together,” James said.

Having 18 sites may require more tech help, “but it also means no one is driving two and a half hours to a site, and it’s an opportunity for young people in the area to come experience something together but safely separate,” James said.

It also means it’s an opportunity to invite friends, she added, explaining that while some teens outside of the church may be hesitant to attend a weekend long out-of-town celebration, those same teens may be more likely to say yes to a friend’s invitation for an evening at a local drive-in with prizes, giveaways, and a few tricks on its screen.

Not to spoil the surprises, but James said it may be a good idea to avoid a thorough car and purse clean-out prior to the event. There may be a scavenger hunt.

“We want teens to come with an adult and stay in their car with their quaran-team,” James explained. (A quaran-team should consist of family or friends already within one’s Covid circle.) A local emcee will lead games, and those in attendance will be asked to flash lights, beep horns, use large poster boards, or communicate with whatever outside-the-box material has been deemed suitable for each activity. There’s even talk about an attempt at a stadium-style headlight-flash wave.

Between games, attendees will watch pre-recorded videos centered around the theme “What to do when you don’t know what to do,” based on Matthew 6:25-34.