‘Summer Stretch’ youth ministry program held recently

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

—by Kristin Johnson

If you saw youth wearing neon green t-shirts working around Story City and Roland on any given Wednesday this July, then you saw St. Petri Lutheran, Bergen Lutheran and Immanuel Lutheran’s youth ministry program called Summer Stretch.

Summer Stretch began with one congregation in Burnsville, Minn., 24 years ago. This year Summer Stretch expanded into a cooperative arrangement of over 80+ congregations in the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and Iowa, bringing together several thousand middle school and high school youth one day a week to work in their communities as servants of Christ, and to have a lot of fun doing it. The program has been a part of the Roland-Story community for 5 years and this year had a record number of participants; 36 middle school youth and 7 high school and college youth.

“Summer Stretch allows middle school youth to come together in small groups, to worship and have Bible study and to sample a variety of places to serve, to have fun together, and to make a difference in Jesus’ name,” said Kristin Johnson, Youth Director from St. Petri Lutheran and Bergen Lutheran congregations. “It’s also an opportunity for high school and college youth to mentor small groups and to lead by example. And it welcomes adults to help make it all happen by driving and serving alongside the youth from work sites to the afternoon activities.”

Johnson and Immanuel Lutheran Church Youth Director Zach Bauknecht were the group’s primary leaders again this year.

Summer Stretch participants could be found at many sites around the Roland-Story community including delivering Meals on Wheels, cleaning at Affordables, helping with landscaping, scraping paint off a house and helping with clean up at the Roland-Story Elementary school playground. The youth also learned to tie quilts with the St. Petri quilting group, which has been one of their favorite work sites for five years running.

“These are just a few of the things we’ve done,” said Johnson, “we also were able to purchase enough school supplies with the help of St. Petri’s Endowment that provided $600 for 33 school kits for children and youth in grades Pre-K thru 8th grade in our school district.”

Though Johnson argues that the entire day is a fun experience, the Summer Stretch participants ended their days with group activities geared more toward fellowship and recreation. Events included a trip to Furman Water Park, playing water games in the backyard of St. Petri Lutheran, and swimming at Little Wall Lake.

Summer Stretch began on Wednesday, July 6 and ran through July 20. Each session began at 9:30 a.m. and wrapped up at 3 p.m. The group ended their summer with a trip to Adventureland in Altoona, on Wednesday, July 27.