Reaching our young people

Lisa Warren, pastor of Destiny Christian Outreach Ministries, asked Yvonne Thomas for help reaching young people in the community, and the result was ‘Coming from Behind the Walls,’ an event that bridged the generational gap.


ST. PETERSBURG — Yvonne Thomas is no stranger to planning big events or finding ways to get young people excited about attending. Last year it was a Black history program with the youth dressing up as iconic figures in African-Americans history.

So, when Lisa Warren, pastor of Destiny Christian Outreach Ministries, asked for her help reaching young people in the community, Thomas knew just what to do.

“We had been hearing from so many young people who said they wanted to go to church but always felt they were being judged almost the moment they entered the building,” Thomas said.

Thomas said many youths in her area were dealing with challenging situations, such as losing friends to car accidents or shootings. She knew there had to be a way to support them and help adults see that there is a way to reach young people with a little creative thinking and a listening ear.

Thomas decided that a big community event designed to encourage and inspire young people while bridging the gap with the older generation was the perfect solution. With her expertise, she was ready to get to work planning an outdoor event for youth.

“I was asked to come up with a theme to help people understand what the youth are going through,” she said. “I wanted to shine a positive light on the good things our young people are doing. Sometimes people are so quick to shine a negative light [on the youth], I wanted to put something positive back.”

She decided to coordinate an outdoor event and called it “Coming from Behind the Walls.” The idea was to allow the youth to feel at ease, without judgment about their attire or worry that they weren’t dressed appropriately.

“I wanted to emphasize a new generation coming from behind the wall,” Thomas stated.

The event, held at the end of January, featured step teams, Christian rappers and praise dancers. Three food trucks also donated food for the free event.

Thomas said about 250 people attended, including dozens of teenagers, something she wasn’t expecting.

“It was good just to see the youth out there coming together talking, interacting, just having a good time,” she said.

For the youth, the chance for an afternoon of fun with no judgment and no worries about the struggles they may be facing was so appealing they want Thomas to plan an event every other month.

“I told them I would try,” she said. “I am shooting for the next one to be in March, not details yet, though.”

For now, Thomas said she hopes this recent event was the beginning of a dialogue between the younger and older generations.

“I just want adults to realize that if they just take the time to listen without judgment, you can really reach our young people,” she said. “I wanted the event to be a success for the community, so people realize that we are all one and that we are all trying to save our youth.”

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