Jul 28

What’s a work and play day? St. Paul’s UMC gives an example

I have fond memories of summer youth mission trips from my time as a youth pastor and associate pastor. Now, in my role as Intermountain’s chaplain, it is a great joy to host groups that want to support the work of Intermountain with their presence and passion for ministry. In my work with youth, I always tried to balance work projects with what is sometimes called “contact work”—those opportunities you have to directly interact with the group you are trying to help.

Now, as you might expect, we need to minimize “contact work” with the children in our care because they need to be assured that they are in a safe and secure environment. But, with plenty of time to prepare and plan for contact work, there are very appropriate ways that youth groups and civic organizations can help encourage the staff and children at Intermountain’s residential facilities in Helena, Montana. The best model we have right now is something I’d call a “Work and Play Day.” The “work” portion is some sort of manageable project involving manual labor that can be suited to the size and skill level of the group visiting. The “play” part is where the group can be directly involved with the children and their direct care staff. This can be outdoor or indoor games, crafts and activities, or some other sort of special project that draws the children together for fun interaction.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Helena, Montana, has been a great example of a group that knows how to both work and play. This summer they have come up and helped replace some of the really old bark mulch around some of our cottages. They spent three hours raking, shoveling, and spreading new bark in our flower beds. A group with Pastor Tyler also took some time to repaint some scansions used during our annual Festival of Trees. Then, after a break for snack and planning, they hosted an amazing time of field games and activity stations that included glitter tattoos, bubble blowing, chalk art, beading, parachute games, and more! I am so thankful for youth pastor Meg White’s leadership in making volunteering at Intermountain a priority for her youth.

There is a lot to be gained by involving your group in a work and play day at Intermountain. During the orientation for St. Paul’s day on campus, one of the young people asked, “Why do you like working here at Intermountain?” I was able to share with the youth that I enjoy my work at Intermountain because it is a very “real” place to be in ministry and that the church is only healthy when it recognizes that God uses “broken” people—those that realize their need for God and others and are open to the miracles of God’s grace and love. At Intermountain, the children and the staff recognize their brokenness and need. In humility we seek God for the help we can receive in community—emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. These remarks opened up a wonderful conversation with the youth of St. Paul’s about removing the stigma of emotional pain and hurt, and needing to be authentic and vulnerable in our churches, making them safe places to “not have it all together.”

If you are interested in service at Intermountain, I will do my best to find something your group can participate in. Sometimes a little persistence and patience is needed, because timing can sometimes be a tricky aspect of scheduling—especially if you desire that “contact work” I wrote about above! But, if you are willing to start the conversation, I know you and your group would benefit from connecting with the amazing work of our Intermountain staff and our incredible children.

Blessings, Chaplain Chris Haughee (chrish@ intermountain.org)