Junior Youth Connections (JYC) is celebrating its three-year anniversary! JYC started as an in-person gathering for youth aged 10–13. The program offers opportunities for youth to meet new friends, have fun, play games, enjoy snacks, and explore spirituality. Different parishes across the diocese would host JYC events typically on a Friday evening. The event would also invite children, youth, and family ministry leaders to gather at the same time in a different room to network, connect, and share resources. JYC shifted shortly after pandemic closures to be offered online through Zoom. This shift has forever changed Junior Youth Connections and the way we continue to provide the program.
Adapting JYC to online gatherings created unexpected new benefits for the youth and volunteers. The numbers of participants increased immediately as travel barriers were removed, and youth felt more comfortable meeting new people for the first time through a screen rather than in-person. The virtual program runs very similarly to in-person except we are unable to serve gourmet snacks and beverages through the internet. However, food is incredibly important for youth gatherings, so we invite participants to prepare snacks and have, on occasion, planned epic chef challenges!
Another unexpected delight was how often the youth wanted to gather. Typically, JYC took place four to five times a year. Once we shifted to online, we began offering the program weekly due to the response we received. Youth were missing community connections and faith formation opportunities. It was a no-brainer that JYC would become a fun space for youth to join weekly to escape the daily challenges of pandemic living.
Donna Ellis from St. John’s, Ancaster, and Mary Gordon from the Church of the Resurrection, Hamilton, have been two integral youth ministry volunteers for JYC. The youth absolutely adore their outgoing and warm personalities that have nurtured the budding community. They truly have a gift for working with children and youth, and their passion is felt by each participant. Both leaders have led the youth through faith discussions and practices, and always come prepared with an outrageous game. You would be surprised how much laughter and fun we can have through computer screens!
As we move towards a post-pandemic season, JYC will include both virtual gatherings and in-person events! We are excited to continue to grow the JYC community diocesan-wide for many years to come!
Dates for Junior Youth Connection:
JYC virtual Zoom gatherings (4:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.): May 17, June 21, September 20, October 18, November 15, December 13. There are no gatherings in July or August
JYC in-person gatherings (7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.): Friday, May 13 and Friday, September 30.
To join, please contact Sarah Bird by email ([email protected]) and provide your name, parish, and email address to be sent a link the day of the event to connect with the group.