Since its foundation, the latest and greatest in Steubenville junior high evangelization and outreach has gone by the name EDGE, an immersive program dedicated to introducing local youth to the catechetical basics.
The program, which meets every Wednesday from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m., derives its name from the non-affiliated LifeTeen EDGE course, according to EDGE Youth Coordinator, senior Jacob Konkolics. Independent of LifeTeen in function and curriculum, EDGE exists for the purpose of bringing “sixth, seventh, and eighth grade kids to a personal relationship with God,” said Konkolics.
Semester-long curriculums address foundational Catholics basics, specifically tailored toward an enthusiastic, youthful demographic; the most recent fall semester was dedicated to instilling a knowledge of the sacraments, and the current months are dedicated to the truth of the Ten Commandments.
Konkolics said the group’s unique composition helps to foster fellowship. Said Konkolics, “You have the older kids who are a bit more mature, and you’ve got the other kids who are still learning about life.”
He said that “getting to know them on a more personal level” drove his own love for the program, and “being able to tell them about Christ is such an incredible gift.”
Youth different in respective age are nevertheless the same in their drive for Christ. “For these kids, this is youth group” said Konkolics. “They look forward to this. They talk about it; they learn from it. They’re hungry for it, and they’re hungry for Christ,” he said.
Fellowship is furthermore fostered by deliberate time set aside in each EDGE session for the specific purpose of informal social interaction. “We allowed time for snacks and for fellowship with the kids” said Konkolics. He said the periods of fellowship were installed for the purpose of relational growth: “We realized that it’s out of that relationship that they hear you and listen to you,” he said.
Besides periods of fellowship at the conclusion of each session, EDGE follows a well-defined format. Each night opens with select games, before a transition into prayerful Lectio Divina. “From there, we go into small groups” said Konkolics, before the lesson for the day is presented. “After that, we introduce them to a saint and then end with praise and worship.” he said.
Konkolics cited EDGE Assistant Youth Coordinator Kailey Fischer, along with the four female and four male members of the EDGE core team, as the driving force behind the sustained success of the program. He said that between 15 and 20 junior high youth regularly in attendance have a team of Franciscan University students to thank for weekly catechetical formation.
Faculty advisor to EDGE, Drake McCalister, coordinator of practicum and special projects on campus, also proves vital to the overall success of the still-developing program. Konkolics said that EDGE is constantly changing for the better; from the recent painting of the EDGE room to the semester-by-semester fine tuning of the curriculums themselves, Konkolics said that they “continue to grow, continue to get better. There’s always room for improvement.”
EDGE is also characterized by a series of speculation events over the course of each semester, from its three-day retreat to its end-of-semester Sky Zone Trampoline Park visit to guys’ and girls’ nights. EDGE also hosts a “lock-in,” what Konkolics calls a combination of “games, snacks and food, with adoration and confession. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of craziness.”
Central to the perpetuity of the EDGE program is the mentality of its leaders. “This is God’s mission; this is God’s work,” said Konkolics. “I’m just his vessel, and he’s working through me.”
A dedicated team of Franciscan EDGE core members, together with Konkolics and Fischer under the direction of McCalister, has learned the recipe for consistently introducing local junior high youth to personal encounters with Jesus Christ: a dynamic catechetical curriculum, consistent fellowship and a whole lot of snacks.