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Minnesota Youth Find Community at Church Hangout


In a culture that offers endless choices of afterschool activities and programs, the young people of Willmar (Minnesota) Christian Reformed Church and Unity CRC in Prinsburg choose simple community.

Every Monday evening year round, 10 to 20 middle and high school students gather in their youth building to share a meal together, work on homework, use the computer, and play fooseball and pool. They call it “Open Rock”—named after their youth building called “The Rock.” Dan Sterk, the youth pastor for both churches, said, “It is very low key. It is very simple. It’s youth ministry at its finest for being relational.”

The majority of the young people are from Willmar CRC or Unity CRC, but many feel comfortable bringing friends because of the relational and non-threatening environment. “It can be a gateway. We are not intimidating. They will actually come to a youth group night,” said Sterk. The non-structured environment gives youth leaders the opportunity to connect one-on-one with kids.

Young people are drawn to community, but they also gravitate to good food. Kristin Sterk, Dan’s wife, makes meals and visits with the young people every week at Open Rock. “Kids will send me a text message asking what is for dinner tonight,” said Dan Sterk.

Young people met intermittently for Open Rock until a little over a year ago Dan and Kristin Sterk made it a weekly, year-round event. “There is something about kids and a desire for community. If you start building this sense of community and if you feed them they will come,” said Dan.

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