Story and photos by Sandii Peiffer
In July 2015 the IMPACT Festival, held at Greene Hills Camp and run by Salt ‘n Light Youth Ministry Inc., celebrated its twentieth anniversary.
Twenty-one years ago the Creation Festival held in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania, was cancelled due to flooding of the campground. With his youth prepped, packed, and ready to go to Creation, Rev. Dr. Stephen Gallaher, then a pastor at Warrior’s Mark United Methodist Church, called some of the other United Methodist youth leaders in the same boat and invited them to gather at Green Hills camp, where they held an impromptu youth gathering, camping around the manor, offering worship, large group and small group sessions in the barn, and other activities on the grounds. With participants numbering over 200, the IMPACT event was born.
The annual gathering was formalized and the first official IMPACT festival was held in 1996.
The IMPACT festival combines powerful praise and worship sessions, challenging breakout seminars, ambitious athletic and outdoor activities, life-changing lessons from God’s Word with a number of main stage gatherings, and a relational emphasis through group-building and campfire settings.
Approximately 650 young people, youth leaders, and chaperones attended IMPACT 2015.
IMPACT uses a variety of mediums to present the gospel in engaging ways such as creative arts, athletics, games, music, message, and witness. Their messages deal with pressing issues for youth in a scripturally relevant way through various art forms. IMPACT is also a place where teenagers are given the opportunity to talk openly about how God has changed their lives. “The hearts of teens are very receptive to truth that speaks to them,” said Gallaher.
When asked about the highlights of IMPACT over the past 20 years, Gallaher said those moments happen around the campfire at the end each day when kids are processing and reflecting on the events of the day with their youth groups and adult leaders. Other highlights are seeing young people offer their hearts to Jesus within their faith community (youth group/peers), whether for the first time or rededicating themselves.
Rev. John Overman, secretary of the Board of Directors for Salt ‘n Light, serves as the IMPACT pastor who is available to celebrate communion and provide pastoral care for groups and participants throughout the IMPACT event.
“We’d like to express our thanks for the joyful partnership with Greene Hills Camp, Site Director Charlie Renner, and the staff. We use every part of their facilities,” said a grateful Gallaher.
SALT ‘n LIGHT
It all started with Bishop Felton May, Episcopal leader of the former Central Pennsylvania Conference. After a Great Escape youth event in 1991, sixteen young people responded to Bishop May’s invitation to answer God’s call. Bishop May asked Gallaher to follow up with those young people, and they became the foundation for the “Bishop’s Flock,” a focused youth ministry of the conference.
In 1997 Gallaher formed Salt ‘n Light Youth Ministries, an affiliate ministry of the former Central Pennsylvania Conference (now the Susquehanna Conference), and was appointed to serve in an extended appointment as its executive director.
In the beginning years, Camp Hill United Methodist Church pledged to fully fund the ministry of Salt ‘n Light, with the help of some seed grants from the General Church and other foundations to get it started. Salt ‘n Light Youth Ministries Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit, is now funded 60 percent through gifts and donations and 40 percent through services rendered (such as fees for events.) The twenty member Salt ‘n Light Board of Directors does the fundraising, and all funding for Salt n’ Light goes to people reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have no financial obligations for buildings and facilities because Camp Hill UMC provides office space as part of their ongoing support for the ministry.
The ministry of Salt ‘n Light is to, with, and through young people. Gallaher realized early on in his ministry with youth that kids will listen to their peers before they will listen to adults. This became the basis for his ministry — letting teenagers talk about how God has impacted their life — and he saw that their peers were listening. “Youth Reaching Youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ” became the motto of Salt ‘n Light Youth Ministry.
Salt ‘n Light has several arms to their ministry and holds about 30 events per year. Visit snlym.com to view their promo videos, dramas, and dances, or for more information on each of the following: IMPACT Festival; Zeteo Conference; camps; missions; rallies; youth worker training; creative arts; consultations; retreats; Breathing Room (a renewal retreat for youth workers); and internship mentoring.
The creative arts ministries of S’nL are developed and created in-house – writing, choreography, drama, music, media, and more. A future goal of S’nL is to make some of these creative arts (such as drama videos) available in digital form.
Core staff for S’nL include the executive director; Director of Outreach, Cody Sherry; Director of Tech, Marketing, and Large Events, Ryan Murphy; Director of Creative Arts, Christie Miller (who writes all of the dramas); and Chief Financial Officer and Director of Missions, Chris Irvin. In the summer of 2015 there were 21 young people on staff participating in mentoring internships which provided significant leadership opportunities in various aspects of youth ministry. Summer staff are hired from high school, college, and seminary, and many of them remain involved year-round as they are available.
Leadership in Salt ‘n Light is collaborative. No one person is “the boss.” The executive director has general oversight and human resource responsibilities, but they work with one another. All staff have full authority in their area (including summer staff) and they work together and help one another when needed. They use failure as a learning opportunity by talking about it – together.
Salt ‘n Light is a relational youth ministry. “We know [your group/youth pastor/church] or will get to know you and then ‘cater’ to your group,” said Sherry. Part of their outreach efforts include the opportunity for youth leaders and pastors to check out any Salt ‘n Light event free of charge. Contact Cody Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
|Rev. Dr. Stephen Gallaher|
Outside of his involvement with S’nL Gallaher will continue to teach as Professor of Christian Ministries/Youth Ministries at Messiah College, and in his role of associate pastor at Camp Hill UMC. He will also provide consultations and youth worker training through Plum Hollow Youth Ministry Resources, in partnership with Messiah College and Salt ‘n Light.