Song and sermon

Students at St. Teresa’s Academy and youth around the country are seeking Jesus through alternative forms of worship.


Freshman Avery Spooner, left, holds a sign with K-life friend Shawnee Mission East freshman Meredith McGannon at K-life Hoedown Oct. 21. Spooner has gone to Kanakuk since she was 6 years old. photo courtesy of Avery Spooner

by Gabby Staker, Design Editor

Junior Brynn Slattery didn’t have faith until she spent a week during the summer between eighth grade and freshman year in Trinidad and Tobago. She didn’t really believe that God had a plan for her life or that she would end up spending hours each week in bible studies.

It was impossible to imagine that Ephesians 4:32 would become her favorite Bible verse or that she would meet some of her best friends in two little houses on 79th Street. But when she came back from her mission trip that summer of 2015, she found Kanakuk Kamps and KLife: a community that has been shaping her life ever since.

“I went to Kamp that summer and became a Christian,” Slattery said.

Kanakuk, a summer camp with a mission of shaping hearts to “serve God first, others second, and themselves third,” was founded in 1926 by Dallas-native C.L. Ford, according to the camp website.

KLife grew out of Kampers’ need for an outlet to consistently find that same Christian community once they came home. In 1976, the sister program was started with the motto, “Impacting a youth culture for Christ.”

Though its boasts an old history, KLife is a part of a growing transition in young Christians towards seeking Christ in nontraditional settings. Sermons are being live-streamed, music produced, and reflections blogged from organizations like the Cause Church of Kansas City, a member of the global Hillsong Family.

Since 1983, Hillsong has spread to 19 countries and produced over 24 albums, according to their website. Within the past year, their church in Los Angeles, led by pastor Carl Lentz, has attracted celebrities such as Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, Hailey Baldwin, Nick Jonas, and Selena Gomez.

Growing up going to Episcopalian church services and Catholic masses, Slattery had a hard time connecting with the formality of it all. When she discovered Kanakuk the “uplifting atmosphere” was able to offer her more than traditional hymns ever had.

“I just didn’t get into it,” she said. “Whereas [now] my church and Kamp services are relaxed and really cool worship… It’s a more welcoming environment.”

Freshman Avery Spooner has grown up going to church at Vineyard KC North, studied her faith in small groups at KLife and spent a week every summer at Kanakuk in Branson, MO., since she was six years old.

Like Slattery, she keeps coming back and investing time in that community because of the “spirit” with which God is celebrated.

“It always has a hyped-up, full of energy, never a dull moment [kind of] fun,” Spooner said.

In that same tradition, Kyle and Liz Turner founded the Cause Church seven years ago in the popcorn-wreaking basement of Cinemark on the plaza, leading four friends in a bible study. Their membership slowly crept higher, and the Turners decided to build their current campus at 46th and Belleview Ave.

Now, according to Kyle, a growing congregation means they must expand that home, and the Cause has expanded their church services to a North campus at Parkhill South High School.

Their mission statement is to “[build] a community of faith that is helping people live out the mission of Jesus. Until Jesus runs this town.”

The formation of a Christ-centered lifestyle is the link holding the movement together. Members of the Cause believe that worship itself isn’t sufficient. Turner says there must be “a heart for the home.”

For some elementary, middle and high school students in the Kansas City area, that home at found at KLife.

“You’ll go out from Kamp with a Kamp high,” Spooner said. “And it slowly starts to fade away when you’re not involved as much, not pushed as much. When you go back to school, you’re facing other challenges and sometimes your faith can fall a little bit.”

Spooner and Slattery meet with their Klub- other high school girls from Shawnee Mission East High School,Pembroke Hill High School, Kansas City Christian School and across the city- on Monday nights in addition to participating in other youth groups in their churches throughout the week.

“It’s nice to have leaders and other people your age who are going through the same stuff and can keep you accountable and to have friendships that are based around Christ,” Spooner said.

Slattery echoed the importance of accountability and having an environment that is a constant encouragement throughout the week.

“Monday’s obviously a hard day for anybody but [Klub is] a good way to finish my day and start off the week,” Slattery said. I would definitely struggle without it.”

It’s been three years since her mission trip to Trinidad and Tobago. Those three years at Kanakuk and KLife have made an impact on her faith development, providing her with a type of worship that has helped to strengthen her relationship with God. Ephesians 4:32 is her favorite Bible verse and Slattery smiles as she recites, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God and Christ forgave you.”