Senior finds home at church youth group

YTH fosters connection with faith


Senior Austin Patterson discusses in his youth group on September 27.

When senior Austin Patterson first heard of his church youth group, YTH, he was reluctant to join. Patterson said his friend convinced him to attend a YTH meeting.

“I started because a friend of mine had to go and he brought me to make it more fun. That’s how it started, but once I got connected I wanted to go every week, and I’ve been consistent with attendance. This was the first church I tried since we moved to St. Louis Park and now it’s home,” Patterson said.

Patterson said when he first started attending YTH, it was infrequent and disconnected, but a few meetings into attending more frequently, he became a regular.  

“I started attending in 8th grade. Sporadically at first, but within a couple months I was pretty dedicated and felt connected to a few key leaders there,” Patterson said.

According to Patterson, the adult partners helped him to create connections to the faith.

“I stay involved because of the mentors there and all the passionate people who lift us up in our faith. And God’s there. It’s like a spiritual fuel-up mid-week where I can encounter Jesus with a hundred other people who seek the same thing,” Patterson said.

Patterson said a normal Wednesday night is typically a chill hang out, a service, with a discussion break-out session.

“Generally, at a Wednesday night service, people start showing up at around six and just chill and hang out outside and play games like dodgeball or spikeball. Then we get called inside and fill the auditorium to start worship for the next 20 minutes,” Patterson said. “Then we all sit, hear some announcements and give our tithes. Then Drake, our youth pastor, preaches a message for about 20 minutes and we wrap up with small groups for another 15 or so, or however long it takes. We finish a bit before 9.”

According to Patterson, his leadership roles within the program include running running production for the band.  

“I used to help run production for the band during worship, stuff like changing and cuing stage lights and running videos and moving through lyric slides with the music,” Patterson said.

Pastor Drake Michaelson, lead pastor of the YTH program at the River Valley Church, said his role is primarily is to act as the facilitator of the program.

“My role is to help facilitate the Wednesday night youth night program, so I am the one leading our team of around 45 young adults, who volunteer to work with the teens to help run the group dialogue and collaborate. I also preach and lead my sermon, and I work to help connect and build relationships through guidance and mentoring,” Michaelson said.

Michaelson said he was first introduced to God and the church in high school, similar to many of the high school aged kids who join YTH. Michaelson said the turning point for his life was when he turned to God for help.  

“I realized that God wanted to have a loving relationship with me, with us, and I realized that I needed to dedicate my life to Jesus as he did for me. No matter what I do, I go all in,” Michaelson said. “I wanted everyone else to have that experience. I want to help people find their purpose in life, and when they asked me to be the youth pastor, I fell in love. I want to help people fall in love with the God that has loved them the whole time.”

Senior Anna Moore was invited to YTH by Patterson and has since attended several times, citing the comfortable environment and high engagement for her interest.

“YTH is a very chill place and felt very comfortable for me from the get-go, it reminded me a little of school because of the sermon, but it was really interesting and I felt engaged,” Moore said.