Catie Levenick believes all youth and young adults need opportunities to experience the love of God. She strives to do that every day in her in role as youth and family ministry coordinator at Stewartville United Methodist Church.
Levenick and her husband, Brad, joined the congregation two years ago when she started her role on staff. They've since added another family member, and their son, Lukas, now is 1 year old.
The congregation was a place where the Levenicks experienced a sense of connectedness and welcome right off the bat. Before she even had applied for the position on staff, Catie and Brad visited on a Sunday morning. Right away, they knew it would be a good spiritual home.
"The people of Stewartville United Methodist church love people, and they are very straight-forward," Levenick said. "It's like family."
Levenick credits her mom with being a central influence in her faith development. Raised in Rogers, church and Sunday school participation always was a central part of her upbringing. A service-oriented camp experience in the summer before eighth grade deepened Levenick's sense of who Jesus is and the life he lived. STORM Camp, the camp Levenick attended that summer and now is the lead administrator for, stands for Service to Others in Relational Ministry.
"All week, we were serving others, and I realized that this faith thing had a real point to it," she said. "At camp that summer, my life changed. I had a new sense of hope and purpose. Within 24 hours, I wanted to tell people about Jesus!"
It was at STORM Camp Levenick first felt a call to serving young people for her vocation. "In eighth grade, I heard my call to youth ministry and I've been chasing it ever since. … I definitely want to share the hope and love of God. Youth are hungry for those things."
Stewartville United Methodist Church has programming for youth of all ages. Levenick's work focuses on ministry with students in grades 5-12. A program called 310 takes place on Wednesdays right after school, at 3:10 p.m. Fifth- and sixth-graders in the program get picked up after school and enjoy games and Bible-learning activities together.
Confirmation is for seventh- and eighth-graders. "They are so curious and ask the best questions," Levenick said of her students. From 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, the senior high youth gather. "My senior high youth are just awesome," Levenick said.
Levenick utilizes social media and text messaging as important ways of connecting with youth and their families, but it's not the only method for reaching out. "I try to be very adamant that whenever students text me about something to always follow-up in person about it," she said. The face-to-face connections remain immensely important ways of connecting.
Worship at the church takes place at 9 a.m. on Sundays. The 9 a.m. worship service incorporates a blend of traditional and contemporary music styles. The fellowship hour takes place after worship with families taking turns providing treats. "The treats are always amazing," Levenick said.
The Sunday school hour runs parallel to fellowship time, with children in the classrooms surrounding the fellowship hall. The pastor of the congregation is Rev. Wane Souhrada.
Members of the congregation find mission and outreach to be important to who they are as a family of faith. Some of the ways members serve include packing hygiene kits for those in need around the world, participating in Stewartville's backpack program, assisting community members in need and serving as the host congregation for STORM Camp. "We really believe it's our job to serve others," Levenick said.
In the United Methodist Church denomination, there is a special ministry designation called "Licensed Local Pastor." With Souhrada's encouragment, Levenick recently started the process to become a Licensed Local Pastor and is finding it deeply meaningful. The designation will allow her to take on additional congregational leadership responsibilities. "God is never done calling us," she said with a joyful smile.
The congregational community has been a special part of Levenick's life, and she hopes others will feel welcome to participate. "At Stewartville United Methodist, we love God and we love others. At this congregation, you're at home and part of a family. It's a a homey place."
To learn more about Stewartville United Methodist Church, visit its website, www.stewartvilleumc.org.