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Keeping Christianity cool

Church youth director creates program to help high school and college students bond, hoping it builds a lasting relationship with their faith.

March 25, 2011|By Cassandra M. Bellantoni
  • Members of Overflow play music as part of a new church group geared to college age students and young people, enjoy the group at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church on Thursday, March 3, 2011, in La Crescenta, CA. (Photo by Libby Cline)
Members of Overflow play music as part of a new church group…

La Crescenta Presbyterian has created a new youth group called Overflow, which organizers hope will inspire high-school teens to bond with college students and encourage them to stay active in church at a time when they might otherwise wander away.

Spearheading the growing group is youth director Cameron Hackett, who joined the church last year. If it weren’t for a mentor he had when he was a college student, he might not have found his way to Christianity at all, he said.

“We want kids to slow down, connect with each other in worship and realize the decisions they make in their high school and college years are the foundation for who they are going to become,” Hackett said.

Hackett also credits a quote he heard from Chap Clark, a professor at Fuller Seminary and author of 17 books on adolescents, for the idea behind Overflow. Clark said that 80% of young adults will continue in their Christian faith if they have four or five vested non-parental mentors while in their teen years.

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“My own journey had a lot to do with close relationships and mentors, so I know this to be a key component and what we want to achieve with Overflow,” Hackett said.

Hackett said his family was “Christmas- and Easter-only” church goers and he found his path to Christianity while attending Occidental College simply by observing his mentor, who used to loan Hackett a car and offer advice. This motivated Hackett to learn more about faith, he said, and, much to his parent’s dismay, he decided to work for an urban ministry program in Lincoln Heights instead of studying abroad in Spain — and he’s never looked back.

Lauren Gossett, 22, a mentor with Overflow and a graduate of Point Loma Nazarene University, said she has been involved with mentoring younger students since she was a freshman in high school and has seen firsthand the progress Overflow is making with the youth at the church. She works with the high school students in Overflow and a group of junior-high girls on Wednesday nights.

The young people are latching on to Hackett and his carefree style of acting “goofy and silly while not feeling awkward about it,” and this allows the kids to act the same way, Gossett said.

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