Originally published in the Summer 2014 Explorer.

This year in our youth group, we got a new youth minister. When Michael Kellett came, he left behind his home and friends. He and his family have adjusted to Richmond and to RRCB, in part, because of what Michael taught us: to welcome others. Not only did he teach us to be welcoming to new people in the community, but to everyone.

In our church youth group, we definitely had cliques. I was part of the “newbies” clique, even though I’ve been in the group for a year now (starting in 6th grade). Nobody paid attention to the “newbies” mainly because they thought it would be mutually awkward – we didn’t really know each other. Before Michael came, we stayed in our cliques. We weren’t a “group.” I put that in quotes because though we qualified as a standard group of people, we weren’t a group.

When Michael came, he told us that this year’s theme is welcome. Though everyone has kept mostly the same, I’ve noticed quite a few changes. I am talking to people I never even thought had noticed my existence before! I have a much stronger trust in everyone now. We all do our best to include EVERYONE! We still have some work to do in making sure that all people feel welcomed in this place.

I am enjoying this year’s theme of “welcome” very much as we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Quote from the Kyle Matthews song You Belong Here:

You are welcome in this family
You are wanted in this place
You have value to your Maker
…You belong here Welcome home!