By Celine Klosterman
KEOTA — Catholic and Protestant youths in Keota study in the same high school classes. Some attend churches within a half-mile of each other. And some of the teens learned about Jesus in the same Vacation Bible School.
Soon, some may gather for an ecumenical youth ministry program, too. Adult leaders at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, United Church of Faith and Bethel United Methodist Church in Keota hope to combine efforts to create a stronger program than any one church could offer. Youths from the three churches would join for service projects, ecumenical worship services and social activities, while keeping catechesis separate.
The effort would be Holy Trinity’s first youth ministry venture in recent years, and would help the Protestant churches expand their youth ministry programs. United Church of Faith, a 330-person Methodist and Presbyterian congregation, has seen an average of 10 youths in its program, while the 40-member Bethel church has seen three or four youths, the Rev. Dennis Hopes said. He is pastor of both churches.
Holy Trinity Parish has about 725 individual members. Its most recent confirmation class included a few more than 20 youths, said Brian Becker, parish council member.
Efforts to develop communitywide youth ministry began several months ago. Holy Trinity’s parish council had discussed offering more for Catholic teens after they’re confirmed, Becker said. And his co-worker Duane Sprouse, chair of the Christian education committee for United Church of Faith, had long thought of joining forces with Holy Trinity for youth ministry. So the two men started planning.
“It’s important to us to have community activities,” Sprouse said. He noted that the three churches have collaborated on Vacation Bible School and Christ in Others Retreats for years, and the Rev. Hopes speaks at a yearly prom Mass that Protestant students attend with their Catholic dates. “If it works for those things, why can’t we make it work for youth ministry?”
Father Charles Fladung, Holy Trinity’s pastor, noted that a planning commission for the Davenport Diocese has encouraged churches to collaborate, even ecumenically.
Becker hopes the ecumenical youth ministry program would help teens better understand each other’s Christian denominations. He said Protestants might wonder, for example, Why don’t Catholics eat meat on Fridays during Lent? Youth ministry gatherings offer opportunities to discuss such matters, he said.
“This is putting together a venue for youths to do faith-based activities,” instead of pursuing secular entertainment, Sprouse said. “We want youths to have a good time, but at the same time explore what God is all about and know there are other things out there for them.”
He, along with Becker and Holy Trinity’s youth minister, Becky Becker, and several others have formed a leadership committee that hopes to have the first monthly meeting with youths in October. All Keota-area high school students would be welcome.
Depending on the program’s success, committee members may launch a junior-high program later.
For now, the committee is seeking at least three Catholic and three Protestant adult leaders, all of whom must complete Protecting God’s Children training that the Davenport Diocese requires. To volunteer, call Brian Becker at (319) 461-5605 or Sprouse at (319) 461-5611.