Impact, a Christian club for teens, celebrated its 10th year of existence recently.
The club was founded at Jamestown High School in 2001. Around 12 students attended the first meeting during their lunch period, according to Dan Soderberg, club co-founder and chairperson. Now, 350 students at 13 area middle and high schools attend Impact meetings regularly. The club has also expanded to include a Hispanic branch at JHS, Impacto, which is led by local Hispanic pastors. The different branches all still mostly meet during lunch.
The clubs are discussion-based and can range from group sessions to individual Bible studies. They are all led by students and monitored by volunteer youth workers. Impact clubs often organize service projects, such as cleaning up their schools, making gift packages for the custodial staff or writing anonymous Christmas cards to prisoners.
"I remember one time when the club at Persell Middle School raised more than $400 for Samaritan's Purse," recalled Soderberg.
Impact was created to give students a place to discuss their faith, said Soderberg.
"It's a club where students can share their love of God with their campus and share the love of Jesus with their peers," he said.
Frequent issues tackled in group discussions include key character formation lessons such as bullying and cheating. Because the clubs are student-run, Soderberg explained, they help to inspire students to become leaders.
"The best thing about Impact is seeing how the students develop their leadership over the years," he said. "They learn to run meetings and solve problems, all kinds of things. At the end of the school year, we award a scholarship to a graduating senior who has displayed leadership."
Impact was born in Chautauqua County, and it is not managed by a national organization. The Christian club was created in the area and for the area. Additionally, the club is not spearheaded by one church or religious group, but accepts all denominations.
"It's important to note that Impact is a unique grassroots organization that's just in our area," said Soderberg. "It's not nationally organized, it's a local thing. and it's ecumenical, it's inter-denominational."
Participants in Impact gathered at the Gateway Center in Jamestown recently to celebrate the club's 10-year reign. Festivities included games such as ping pong, foosball and laser tag. local band, headed by Justin Joyner, a youth pastor at Trinity Methodist church in Frewsburg, entertained students. Jay Beahr of Zion Covenant church in Jamestown served as the evening's emcee. Scott Smith of the Busti Church of God gave a speech titled "What does it mean to bring God with you to school?" at the rally.
For more information, contact Dan Soderberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.