Down a back hallway of Our Savior Lutheran Church is a large room full of worn, comfortable couches and the energy that comes from a small group of fun and lively high school-age kids. The room is set aside specifically for the youth group called NUTS.
Their group's name is an acronym that means "Never Underestimate The Spirit," which was coined by the high school group that was there about seven years ago, according to youth director Stephanie Schoenrock. It's a mid-week program for high school-age kids in grades 10 through 12 who meet every Wednesday evening from 7 to 8:30 in the NUTS room.
Youth group member Lexi Benno described the group as "just a hanging out group." She said that the youths in the group have either grown up in the church or have some kind of association with the church and they bring other friends. Typically, it's a group of six to 10 youths, but the numbers fluctuate with the years, said Schoenrock.
Dan Voth, left, a pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church, in Minot, Alyssa Coyle, center, and Ben
Carnahan take some time to visit during a NUTS meeting Wednesday.
Molly Rylander, left, enjoys her time with her friends during a NUTS meeting on Wednesday while Shelby Ring does some work on her laptop.
Schoenrock explained that they gather in the NUTS room every Wednesday and that their work schedules and school activities leave them with Wednesday nights free. She said that the NUTS group provides a safe place for youths to come and discuss sensitive topics like drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and challenges with parents and friends.
The group spends some time also talking about the Bible. Youth pastor Dan Voth will typically join the group for a short time after confirmation class concludes. He explained, "The common thread I've seen is that it's [the NUTS group] a place to go where they don't have to deal with teenage pressures. It's like a safe haven for them."
The NUTS group hasn't participated in too many service events this year, said Schoenrock, but there are some planned in the works for flood recovery. She said the group will be assisting in the needs with families whose homes flooded and need help.
They also participate in activities within Our Savior Lutheran Church and made take-and-bake pizzas on Super Bowl Sunday. It's an annual activity and the group does it to raise money to offset the cost of staying at Shepherd's Hill at the Crossroads, a retreat north of Dunseith where they frequently go for a weekend.
Another activity the group does together is attend Sonshine, a Christian music festival in Minnesota each July.
Voth said that the group will be serving dinner for the congregation before the Ash Wednesday and Lenten 7:15 p.m. worship services at the church as a way to bring everyone together. The group will also be helping out with Easter breakfast, Voth added.
Another upcoming activity the NUTS group does every year is the Cross Walk on Good Friday. Voth said that the walk starts at Minot High School-Magic City Campus and the group walks to Our Savior Lutheran Church, located at 3705-11th St. SW, carrying a "decent-sized" cross, making stops along the way to focus on the last moments of Jesus.
The overall goal of NUTS is for the youths to become closer to God and their friends because, added member Molly Rylander, "We don't always get that at home."
Schoenrock added, "What I think is cool about this group is when they see someone acting in a non-Christian line, they police each other."
"The group changes in dynamic each year. This year is the chef group. It always changes according to the group of kids," Voth added.