NEXT GEN Ministries to host youth Valentine’s Day party

Published 10:07 am Thursday, February 14, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Valentine’s Day might not be the holiday most people associate with church, but for the youth group at Apostolic Lighthouse Church in Dowagiac Valentine’s Day will be an evening of formal wear, non-stop games and lighthearted fun.

From 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, NEXT GEN Ministries is hosting a free and open party and banquet for local youth who want to celebrate the holiday of romance without the strings and burdens of dates and cliché gifts.

Eric Charles, one of the youth pastors at ALC, described the Valentine’s Day banquet as an opportunity to have a good, safe time.

“It’s a romantic holiday, and people can take it one of two ways. Yeah, it’s about love, but it’s just about having fun in a good, safe environment,” Charles said.

The evening will consist of a spaghetti dinner, for which students are encouraged to wear formal wear, then a series of ongoing games and prizes for the remainder of the night.

“We’ll decorate the entire room in the fellowship hall and have games almost every half hour. It will be structured, and we’ll keep it moving, so it’s not stagnant or boring. We’ll just make it very easy going,” Charles said.

As a lifelong member of ALC, Charles sees the event as not only a fun opportunity for local youth but as a testament to the uplifting culture and legacy of the youth group he enjoyed as a teenager. Charles knows personally about the wholesome and lively social ecosystem that can exist in church youth groups and wants to provide that for his own students, as well as other area youth looking for social outlets and opportunities. He believes providing laid back recreation like the Valentine’s Day party, even without discussions of faith or religious components, is helpful for high school students.

“Growing up in the church, one of the things that made [church] so enjoyable was all of my best friends came to church with me,” he said. “That’s always in the back of my mind when making decisions. That’s something I’ve taken away from it.”

Charles understands that church invitations can be taken the wrong way, or come across as pious, which is why hosting occasional events without the religious component is part of his leadership philosophy.

“Most kids aren’t very responsive to hey come to church with me,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to get them to go to a party, and we think it’s good to celebrate these holidays.”

Charles also believes in the importance of providing a healthy space and structure for teens, which is why NEXT GEN’s Valentine’s Day party is leaning away from the commercial romance of the holiday, and why the event will be well chaperoned.

“Our events are always chaperoned. There’s always supervision there. Everything that we do is not for one type of group. Everyone’s included, no one is singled out. We focus on the group and building bonds with other people you may not know. It’s a good way to get out and meet people,” he said.

Readers interested in the NEXT GEN Ministries’ Valentine’s Day Banquet can find the event on the NEXT GEN Ministries — Apostolic Lighthouse Facebook page.