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Speed the Light Fundraiser Becomes a "Share the Light" Experience

When nearly all of the students showing up for the Speed the Light fundraiser were unchurched, youth pastor Paige Koch found it a divine opportunity to develop relationships and be the light for those struggling with serious issues.
When Paige Koch, youth pastor at Sioux Falls First, announced the annual Speed the Light (STL) ticket-sales fundraiser for the Sioux Falls Stampede hockey game to be held Feb. 17, she was hoping for a strong turnout from her roughly 130-member youth group. Instead, what resulted was a divine opportunity.

Koch, who responded to the South Dakota team’s initial offer of $5 back for every $15-ticket sold several years ago, says the event has become an annual STL fundraiser for the youth. Yet when talking about the group, she makes an unexpected observation.

“Our group is an interesting mix,” she says. “About 50% are ‘church kids’ and 50% are non-church kids. We refer to the church as a hospital for the broken and you can see that in our kids coming every single week.”

With a windchill in the teens all day and snow having fallen the day before, maybe it wasn’t a huge surprise when fewer than 20 students showed up for the game. But what was a big surprise was all but four or five of the students who came were non-church kids.

“These are students who are still getting plugged in and learning about Jesus,” Koch explains. “Many are still working through some really difficult things, such as recreational drugs use, gender identity, homosexuality, and stuff like that.”

However, what may have seemed like a not-so-successful fundraiser, instead turned into an opportunity to build relationships with young people who are desperately seeking strong, positive, and, most importantly, caring role models.

“We’ve seen a lot of these students starting to grow closer with our leaders, trusting them more,” Koch says. “You have to cultivate relationship to be able to speak into their lives — without relationship, it’s not going to work.”

Koch explains that what’s interesting about these “seeking” students is exactly how much relationship means to them.

“This generation is not afraid of you challenging them as long as they know that when you’re correcting them, you love them,” Koch says. “They don’t shy away, instead they’ll either ask questions or be confused (as culture says one thing, but you’re saying another) because they know we love them when we’re correcting them . . . but it all ties back to relationships. If you don’t have relationship, there would be defiance; if they know you care — you have relationship — then you have their ear.”

Using an example from the hockey game, Koch says a girl, and a boy struggling with homosexuality were both talking lustfully about a player. Due to relationship, she was able to break into their conversation — neither student getting defensive — and offer counsel, without alienating either.

Yet, for whatever reason, Koch says that verbal feedback from this group is not very common.

“We don’t hear about how much they enjoyed something or appreciated it,” Koch says, “but they keep coming back week after week — their presence speaks volumes.”

Even though the Stampede lost the game that night and only a relative handful of the youth group attended, Koch says the night was a big win as the “right” handful came and relationships with a group of students on the edge were strengthened.

“We’re following Jesus’ footsteps,” Koch says. “Everything He did was about establishing relationships and speaking into people’s lives. The challenge for us is to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit — God wants to reach everyone and not discount the ones who are still far away.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.