By Mrs. Karen Coston, 5th Episcopal District
My mother took me to every church service, Bible study, prayer meeting, and business meeting the church had to offer. I stayed bored because the majority of programs were directed towards the adults and I had to be quiet and still. One prayer meeting, while I was supposed to be tarrying for the Holy Ghost, I made a vow to never allow my children to “suffer” the way I did by forcing them to go to church events they didn’t want to go to. I remembered that vow while watching my children stand in a corner at the entrance of the Hilton Hotel; waiting to greet the Bishops, Supervisors, and General Officers, because I volunteered them to be a part of the hospitality committee for the Bishop’s Council Meeting. To the untrained eye, they looked happy to be there. As the mother/auntie, I recognized the fake smiles and look of dread in their eyes as they played rock/paper/scissors for the loser to be the one who had to greet the next person. I realized then, that something needed to be done so they didn’t feel like it was a chore. I met them in the room when their shift was over and asked if they were ready for a challenge. With excitement in their eyes and grins on their faces, they answered, “YES!!!” in unison.
The Challenge: The young person to get the most selfies with bishops, supervisors, and general officers wins. Individual – 1 point, couples – 3 points, and 5 points if they could get them to pose. The next day, I watched those same shy children who hid behind one another and barely spoke 3 words, walk outside, greet bishops, supervisors, general officers, and 5th District guests at their cars with hugs and handshakes, grab their luggage, introduce themselves and get selfies. The positive response they received empowered them to continue the challenge for the week. They were so motivated, they asked for extra shifts and volunteered for more responsibility. They didn’t realize this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to interact on a close and personal level with the leadership of the AME Church. They were working on their social skills, learning how to interact and work as a team, building up their confidence, while developing leadership skills and strategies. This was an experience they will never forget. I personally loved the interaction with the retired bishops and supervisors, letting them know that they were not forgotten. The real message of this article is that we, as youth leaders in the church, need to create ways to keep our young people engaged, their presence is not enough. That is why the new leadership of the Fifth District, Bishop and Supervisor Fugh, have warmed our hearts; because they include our young people and keep them engaged in all aspects of worship.
Mrs. Karen Coston is a member of Cain Memorial AME Church, Bakersfield, Calif. and the Los Angeles North Area YPD Director.