The Crew has an active membership of about 50 youth which makes it the largest youth group in Prince Edward Island. Photo courtesy of The Crew youth group

Planting the seed of youth ministry in Charlottetown

By  Patrick Grant, Youth Speak News
  • October 21, 2016

Before it was known as The Crew, the small youth group based in Charlottetown, PEI, was known as Mustard Seed with the idea that, like a mustard seed, the group would grow bigger and bigger.

Since the group was formed in 2012, the small group of friends has grown to become the largest youth group in Prince Edward Island.

Married couple David and Jessica Sheppard decided to form a youth group when they first came to the Island from North Bay, Ont., in 2010. Upon arrival, they noticed how sleepy the church was.

“We noticed a big lack of enthusiasm,” Jessica said. “It seemed overrun by the older generations and there was just a lazy atmosphere.”

Jessica, 34, said that both David’s and her faith was greatly influenced by a youth group they attended as teenagers. Founding The Crew youth group was the couple’s way of giving the youth of Charlottetown the same experience.

Jessica said the youth group has awakened the hearts of the young in the Church.

“What I do see, and hear, is a renewed sense of hope within the walls of churches,” she said. “Seeing teenagers eager and alive in the faith sparks so much goodness.”

The Crew youth group is based in St. Dunstan’s Basilica and meet every Thursday evening. They also sometimes host pancake breakfasts, dinners, and small praise and worship concerts.

“The Island is a small place. Everyone is part of a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone,” said David, 35. “Our meetings take place in a very central location, allowing youth from all over the Island to come.”

The Crew, in its early stages, didn’t have much of a program at first. It was just a group of teens that wanted to celebrate their love for God. Since the membership has grown to 50-60 members each week, they’ve recently launched a LifeTeen program.

“We also want to challenge the youth in their faith,” said David. “We don’t want it to be the only place they come to talk to God, but we hope that it’s a stepping stone for them to start their own faith outside of the youth group.”

They hope that it will bring challenging but more substantive topics to light such as abortion and teens’ mental health.

The Crew member Taylor O’Hanley, 17, said that before joining the youth group, he didn’t have much of a relationship with God. Since becoming a regular attendee, he has grown in his faith.

“I go because I find it’s a great way to grow in your faith with other people who have the same goal,” said O’Hanley. “Honestly, if I didn’t start going to youth group, I probably would still have that small relationship with God. Whereas now, I feel like I have a pretty great relationship with Him.”

The Crew’s membership ranges from Grades 9-12, or 14-17 years old. After they’ve graduated high school they’re given the option to be a part of the Core Team.

“Core Team is the continuation of the building of a community,” said Jessica. “We want the youth who have graduated to branch out and start their own evangelization and ministry. They are free to be part of the Core Team, but we want them to start discerning how they can use their gifts for God.”

Jessica said one of the hopes is that the youth will become comfortable with their faith, so that they are able to go out and proclaim the Good News.

“As much as we want it to be ‘our ministry’ and brag about how big the youth group is because of us, we have to remember that it’s God’s ministry,” says Jessica. “It could be just as powerful if there were only 10 kids. We’re just the instruments being used by God.”

(Grant, 17, is a Grade 12 high school student and member of The Crew, living in Cornwall, PEI.)

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