Youth rally draws 80-plus from eastern Kansas

David Burke


SE Region Youth Rally

MANHATTAN — Youth learned about opportunities to express their faith during the first Southeast Regional Youth Rally, Aug. 26 at Manhattan First United Methodist Church. 

More than 80 middle- and high-schoolers and 10 adults from the eastern third of Kansas attended the all-day rally. 

Zander Seth, a freshman at Kansas State University, who walked from his college residence to the church, confessed that the sticky notes holding his sermon were missing, but were recovered for him a few minutes into his sermon. 

Zander Seth speaks at the Southeast Region Youth Rally. Photos by David Burke

Seth told the youth about all the opportunities he had thanks to getting involved in the former Conference Council on Youth Ministries and current Leadership Lab, including speaking twice at the Great Plains Annual Conference sessions, presenting a workshop at the recent Youth 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida, and being part of a group from the conference that toured Alabama during a civil rights immersion this summer. 

“It has such an impact on your life,” he said. 

Seth told the youth about how the pandemic changed him and his youth group at Topeka First UMC when he was in high school, including shifting far-off mission trips to remain local. 

“All of the things we’d do on a mission trip we did in our own community,” he said. “You don’t have to go to Texas or North Carolina to make a difference.” 

Many of the young people who attended Youth 2023 attended the rally, bringing about reunions and an appearance from the group’s mascot, Tony the Turtle, a stuffed alligator (don’t ask). 

Students got their choice of workshops during the rally, including a deeper dive into Leadership Lab, drama, and the depiction of Christianity in the media. During breaktime, the youth played gaga ball and nine-square in the air. 

About 80 youth attended the rally at Manhattan First UMC.

During closing worship service Edison Toe, youth pastor at Emporia First UMC and pastor of Emporia Grace UMC, talked about transformations, using drawings of a caterpillar’s transition to a butterfly to illustrate. 

“God wants us to be transformed into better people,” Toe said. “Change is very important … Each of you has the power to bring about change.” 

Oasis, the praise band from Manhattan First, closed the day with a rousing set that had the teens and preteens singing along and moving to the music. The band’s guitarist, Robbie Phillips, had an acoustic set to open the rally. 

As the rally closed, Jeff Cunningham, director of youth ministries at Manhattan First, hinted at an annual event. 

“I hope this is something we can do again and again and again,” he said. 

Contact David Burke, content specialist, at

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