Trinity United Methodist Church
Monday, April 23, 2018
You are the LIGHT of the WORLD

Our Youth Pastor

     Mariah Shannon is the youth leader for Trinity United Methodist Church.  She is no stranger to working with youth. She was working at a youth camp in Edinboro when she was 16 years old and felt  “God speak to me. I literally fell to my knees,” she said. “I have called you to do this for the rest of your life,” she said of the message she received from God. She answered the call and has been working with young people for 15+ years.
     Mariah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in youth ministry from Eastern College in Wayne where she volunteered with the Habitat for Humanity, Prison Ministry and local youth groups. She also sang in the choir and played lacrosse. Her minor was in mission work. In high school, she was a founder and leader of a Bible Club as well as student leader in her church young group and sang in the teen choir. She also was active in many extra-curricular activities at Reynolds High School, Mercer County.
     After graduating from college, she was a lacrosse coach in Cornwall. She also was a junior and senior high girl’s small group leader at Cornwall United Methodist from 2003 to 2007 and challenged the girls to think outside the box. She then became kid’s worship leader at the church where she chose or designed a curriculum for a staff of 20 volunteers and organized volunteers and did other work.
     From 2007 to 2008, Mariah was chaplain at Kid’s Korner Children’s Center in Greenville, teaching basic Biblical concepts and stories to children ages 2 to 11.
     Her mission is simple: “Love them (the youth) so they can see God through me and other people in our lives.”  The youth have adopted a motto, “Becoming One.”
     To Mariah, some young people are “looking for acceptance and someone to love them as they are.” She believes the youth group is where all children can feel accepted and loved. Her main mission is to not only love the youth, but to lead them to a personal relationship with the Lord. The key is fellowship, hanging out and having fun,” she said. At the same time, she said, “youth ministry must have a purpose.” She wants to teach youth to be servants (for the Lord). One recent example of service was when the youth delivered Valentines to designated church members. She also wants to teach them to focus on others and their needs rather than themselves first, quickly noting human nature in both youth and adults is to look at their own needs first.
     Youth group means fellowship and socializing, but there also is time for Bible study so youth can grow in their Christian walk. Another focus will be on worship. She noted recently that she and some youth will attend a worship workshop in Edinboro and is excited that some of the girls are dancers and believes a liturgical dance group can be formed and participate in worship. “We want strong communications with teens,” she said, adding she believes that is important as they learn to grow in their faith with Jesus. “We have a strong challenge to think outside the box,” she said.  She has built on the programs already in place.
     Another aspect of her mission is to have interactions with adults when possible in joint activities. For example, the boys are joining the men in attending a professional basketball game while the girls go ice skating.
     In an effort to become acquainted with each youth and to learn their likes and dislikes, she has developed a quick survey. It includes such things as what school they attend, grade, their birthdays, parent’s names, address, etc. However, it goes beyond the normal questions. It also asks youth to list their hobbies and interest, school activities, what style of music is their favorite, if they would like to get together with her and if so, when is the best time. The completion of the quick questionnaire allows Mariah to learn a little about the youth so programs can be planned and she knows how to best reach them.
     She also wants to do more outreach and plans to have youth get involved with other local youth groups. She knows some of Trinity’s youth are attending youth groups in other churches. She said that is fine, noting as long as the youth are learning about the Lord and becoming stronger in their faith, she is pleased. At the same time, she believes by both groups working together, they can expand their efforts and bring more youth to the Lord and help them in their daily Christian walk.
     Mariah's husband, now a social worker with Mercer County Children and Youth Services, was a youth pastor before the family moved to a farm near Greenville. The couple has moved to her parent’s family farm where they have taken over the farm operations. They have two daughters, Shaila and Meaera.
     Asked what is the toughest part so far, she grinned, “The weather and shoveling snow.” She noted the weather has meant that youth group has had cancellations. But in good weather, the trip to Conneaut Lake from their home takes “28 minutes.”
     Mariah is a very friendly and outgoing person with a deep love of the Lord and of youth. She is devoted to ensuring that all youth learn about God’s love and have fellowship with other youth. Now in her own office on the second floor of the church, the picture on the wall sums up her mission and her goal for Trinity’s youth. It is a picture of wild horses running in the wind with the caption “Running around with good friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures.”
     Mariah hopes that can become true of the youth at Conneaut Lake and that all of them come to feel they belong and are a valuable part of God’s family.