Keeping Youth Involved Through Service: St. John’s Episcopal Church in Maryland

For Samantha Citrano, 16, working at a local shelter with her youth group recently was a time not only to serve lunch to the homeless, but also to listen.

“They told us their stories and how they got to where they are, and it was very moving,” she says.

Citrano participates in Young Adults in Church (YAC) at the 800-member St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Md. YAC is the last cohort of Journey to Adulthood (J2A), a national ministry curriculum that helps teens find their “calling.”

But the Rev. Jenni Ovenstone Smith, the associate rector, says for years, many juniors and seniors became disengaged and left church. So in 2012, when youth members asked to do more community service, the church rallied.

Now YAC students rotate between five and six ministries every year.

Today, 50 teens participate in YAC, says Smith, and she credits church members for the success. “They love these kids and want them to know they’re created by God with gifts to give in this world.”

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