Greetings From Daytona!

By Rev. Kevin Lester

It’s been a great week at Youth 2023! This is our national UMC conference just for youth that happens only once every four years (so it’s a big deal). We have 31 people in our group from St. Mark’s, and it’s been a fantastic trip for our students so far.

A few highlights might include the big (loud) worship services, the laughter over meals, and afternoons at the beach. But, for me, the best part was what happened at workshop time.

See, we had two open points in our schedule where we invited the students to attend workshops. They could choose only two out of a list of about 15. Adults are invited to attend too, so I read through the list and made my choice (“Creative Prayer” sounded fun) and headed up the stairs and down the hall to the Ballroom 103B at the convention center for my workshop.

That’s when the best thing happened: I got shut out. “Creative Prayer” had more than 100 teenagers bursting out the door, and they had to turn people (me, and many others) away.

No problem! I had a backup: “Everyone Belongs” – a workshop about making your church an inviting place for all people. I got turned away from there as well. There were so many students they couldn’t close the door.

Well, fine, then! I’ll go down the list, how about “Worship Out of the Box” – it’s an interactive class where students work together to re-imagine worship at their home churches.

I opened the door, and a young woman who was pressed against it on the other side whispered “…there’s no room, sorry…” and slowly closed the door in my face.

At first, I might have been a little frustrated – I’d spent about 10 minutes running around trying to get into the classes and never got in!

But, I quickly realized this was the best problem, ever: I couldn’t get in because of all these… TEENAGERS who are… eager to learn?! Eager to serve?! Eager to help us become the church God always wanted us to be?!

I wasn’t even frustrated when this all happened AGAIN during the afternoon session – all the youth showed up in unexpected numbers to the workshops that are giving them a chance to dream about a church that loves, serves, and welcomes as Jesus does.

Today was a good reminder of the sacred task we adults have at church: to fan the flames of faith in our young people, to give them our hearts and our attention, and to lead and guide them to serve, lead, and shape our church with us.

I pray we will be worthy of them, not just this week, but all year.

See you all back in Tucson soon!

-Pastor Kevin


  • 8:30 a.m. Traditional service in sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
  • 10 a.m. Traditional service in sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
  • 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care (except fifth Sundays)
  • 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website

To access our livestream service:

  • From the main menu on our website click “Worship.”  -OR-
  • Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s AZ or use this link.