In that moment before his fingers thump the bass strings, Luis Hernandez knows what’s coming, and he can’t wait.
He hits the strings and the bass reverberates around the church sanctuary. His expression changes to one of satisfaction. Then, Isabel Lunsford jumps in on drums.
It’s loud and powerful.
Welcome to First United Methodist of Burnet’s Rock Camp. It’s the brainchild of Jason Birdwell, the church’s worship leader and family ministries director.
His mission: to connect young people to the church.
“Sometimes, I think teenagers are more of an afterthought to churches,” Birdwell said. “And they shouldn’t be. They’re the future of the church.”
And if they feel like they don’t belong, they might leave.
“If you don’t have the body of Christ to help you with the formation of your faith, then (you) might not stay with it,” Birdwell said.
Finding something that interests teens and developing that interest can strengthen connections.
Music is what did that for Birdwell while growing up in the church, so he came up with Rock Camp.
“One of the things I love about the church here … is they are so committed to the kids, and they told me to go ahead,” Birdwell said.
Rock Camp is 4-6 p.m. Wednesdays at the church, 301 E. Graves St. in Burnet. It’s open to any youth interested in learning to play an instrument, even if they aren’t a member of the church or have musical experience.
The group often practices in the church’s sanctuary. On one evening, Birdwell’s students were on stage jingle bell rocking for the season.
Birdwell stood out front with his six-string acoustic guitar. Playing along with him were Kristos Perez on electric guitar, Isabel Lunsford on drums, Caroline Lunsford on keyboard, and Hernandez on bass.
The number of kids at each camp program fluctuates, but Birdwell has a steady and committed group.
They’ll be performing Christmas songs for an upcoming holiday service.
“I want them to feel like they’re part of the church,” he said. “And I want the congregation to see them as part of the church as well.”
Rock Camp isn’t the only way Birdwell is trying to get youths more active in church. He’s also developing a video editing program.
“I think that’s a big part of getting kids in church: Give them something they’re interested in,” he said. “Then, we can get them connected better when we give them, you know, chances to use those things for church. They see they’re part of it. That’s so important.”
Visit First United Methodist Church of Burnet’s website or call 512-756-2229 for more information.