The summer months present a unique challenge for youth groups who often find their students traveling on vacations, participating in sports leagues, taking extra classes or working summer jobs. To respond to this challenge, several churches worked together to create the program Magic City Tribes.
Using funding from the Office of Connectional Ministries and the Central District, student ministry interns at Bluff Park United Methodist Church in Hoover created a six-week competition that met at a centrally located recreation field on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. Each week featured a different game with bonus points for bringing new friends and donated canned goods.
As many as 140 students divided into twelve “tribes” each week. The tribes then competed in tournaments that featured games like kickball, capture the flag and flag football. Each night included a half-time devotion led by one of the participating church’s youth directors with an invitation for the students to join them at their churches’ ongoing programs.
For the student ministry at Bluff Park UMC, this was a huge success. “Last summer, we might have two or we might have twenty students on a Wednesday night. We just never knew what to expect. But Magic City Tribes really compelled our students to be there and to bring their friends,” said Bart Styes, Bluff Park’s Director of Student Ministries. “Tribes helped us meet 40 new students this summer, at our church alone. And when we came back for our normal Wednesday night student worship program this September, we experienced our highest attendance since I’ve been here. Tribes helped us stay connected with our current students and also helped us engage new ones.”
Participating churches included Bluff Park, Columbiana, Discovery, Montevallo, Morgan Road, Mountain Chapel and Pleasant Hill. Their youth directors plan to continue Magic City Tribes as an annual summer outreach and recreation event, open to all area United Methodist youth groups. The Tribes resource is available for free through the Youth Ministry Office of the North Alabama Conference.