Tanya Frey of First United Church of Christ, Palmerton, wondered how to get a youth group going in the churches that may only have a few kids. She decided the best way was to combine the few kids from a number of churches and form a single group.

She went to a church council meeting and said, "This is what I'm proposing." There will be no fees and approved safety guidelines are to be followed. The council thought it was a good idea.

She went to the phone book and called churches in the area. Thirty received invitations to a meeting to discuss the idea.

Twelve people from eight churches responded, and the Palmerton Area Youth Group was formed.

"We talked about things to do, problems with Sunday school or confirmation classes (because of the low number of kids). Most importantly, we talked about how to form one group."

Carla Schmidt said the idea was to get kids off the street and provide them with something to do. They all go to school together and know each other.

"If I could get one call in the middle of the night asking for help, that would be wonderful," said Frey.

The first meeting was held in October.

The idea of raising money, which helps make some of the trips affordable to children who could not go otherwise, was uncomfortable for some.

It will cut the cost of a planned trip to Knobels by half.

Sixty people - families - went on a snowtubing trip.

"The kids had a blast," Frey said.

For each event someone plans a short message.

For snowtubing it was 25 verses in the Bible that talk about snow.

A sleepover on May 7 will also be a Support the Troops effort. Community service is part of the planned events.

After watching the movie "ET," Kent Stauffer started a discussion on how ET and the Bible related to each other.

Pastor Paul Schoffstall presented a list compiled by a school teacher about what kids need: positive role models, diverse experiences, time with the family (which PAYG promotes), a sense of belonging, being comfortable with themselves, self-esteem (which is something that is earned through a sense of worth), appreciation of and valuing the environment and valuing good grades which are seen as an investment in self because few do the best they can.

Others necessities are having nutritious food, fitness, enough sleep, to become a better citizen, develop teamwork and, most importantly, to have friends who support the above.

Frey said they are already incorporating many of the things from the list and have the remainder in mind when making plans.

Stauffer said this is a youth group, but everyone is welcome.

Isn't what we are trying to do is to reach out to kids who don't have a church? How do we get them here?

If we can get a couple to give it a try and only one stays, that would still be great.

Pastor Schoffstall said you have to do what the kids are interested in, such as the group that meets in a home to help the kids make films.

Ed Shellhammer suggested inviting other churches with successful youth groups to an outdoor game challenge. Schmidt reached a little further with that theme and said teams could be 50-50 with adults and children on each team.

"We want to involve as many people as we can," said Frey. "We are always ready to accept new ideas."

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