Seven years ago, West Vancouver United hired Rev. Simon LeSieur to lead a youth group with just one catch: no youth were attached to the congregation at the time. Each Thursday night, LeSieur brought his two best friends to help lead the group, and maybe one youth would show up. Or three. Five was a blockbuster night. The congregation didn’t waver. For three years, West Vancouver United paid LeSieur, then a theology student, to tend this tiny flock.
Then something clicked. Now, more than 50 youth are attached to the group, and weekly meetings draw between 15 and 25 for dinner and a faith-centred program. All 50 come out for special events.
According to The Observer’s unscientic email polling, this is probably The United Church of Canada’s largest youth group.
“From the start, we asked the teens if they wanted a bigger youth group, and they said, ‘No. We don’t come here to hang out; we can do that at school. We come here to learn about what it means to follow Jesus,’” says LeSieur, who grew up Catholic — and without a youth group — in Quebec City.
“It’s partly why we don’t focus on numbers. From day one, this ministry has been about helping each kid understand what their faith means in this world. I am so proud of them because high school is not an easy place to be a Christian.”
LeSieur’s group is likely more faith- focused than most. Thursday nights, the group shares a meal, then spends an hour together in meaningful activities and prayer. They’ve organized mission trips. They try to understand what God is doing in their lives and in their neighbourhood, where the average home costs $4.8 million.
“[We’re hoping to] help shape young people who have a lot of resources,” says LeSieur, who was ordained last year. “Faith formation for them is partly about,‘What do you do with what you’ve been given?’”
Teen members in the West Vancouver United youth group: 50+
Average attendance at weekly meetings: 15 to 25
Paid hours devoted to youth ministry: 15
Youth in the more conservative church youth group up the block: 3,000
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