We are excited to announce that we are receiving Michelle Witherspoon, formerly of Remerge, to our staff team as the Youth Development Coordinator. With her, she brings the South Atlanta Youth Group under our umbrella. Michelle is a longtime neighbor and friend, we’ve partnered with Remerge for years and have been aligned missionally. Alongside Remerge, we’ve decided strategically to bring Michelle and her youth programming under FCS. We’re thrilled to see our long-standing partnership with Remerge and Michelle bloom into a new branch of our organization!
Michelle arrived on the South Atlanta scene about nine years ago, when the South Atlanta Youth Group was already in full swing. Initially, Donna Barber led the group as the youth engagement arm of the Community Life Fellowship Church. Her son, Joel Barber, still serves as a leader for the group. The Youth Group, a place for young neighbors to bond, gather, and learn, offered a rich space for community-building. Some youths have been faithfully coming since they were eight years old! Michelle served as a volunteer for about four years before, as the church transitioned, she was asked to assume the leadership.
Currently, about forty-five kids between the ages of eight and fifteen traipse into youth group every Wednesday night. They spend the first part of the evening unleashing their energy into games and mobile activities. “I think it’s really important to honor the fact that kids need movement,” Michelle says. After working up a sweat, the kids eat a meal together, and then break off into two groups for a collaborative learning time. Usually this learning involves scripture study, discussing a topic, or simply a time when youths share what’s going on in their lives and encourage each other.
“The lens I have is family,” Michelle remarks, “I believe in the family of God. We have to live into being family together, honoring each other, and treating each other that way. That means we eat together, play together, and celebrate together as we learn about God. These are the things we do one Wednesday night on the regular.”
Michelle protects this family dynamic, and mindfully cultivates a sense of ownership in the group. “When people offer to make food for our group, we welcome the meal and the guest, but we ask for guests to assume a posture of letting the youth group members host them,” she shares. The kids serve the guest and clean up after them.
“It would be weird for you to come to my house, cook me dinner, and clean up after me,” she says with a wry smile, “we don’t want to do that, either. It’s the kids’ space. We welcome people to join, but we want to do it in a way that honors the dignity and integrity of the group.”
When she thinks about this organizational transition, Michelle notes, “I have loved the fabric and DNA of Remerge, which is all about joining lives and being curious about how our lives connect with people different than us. I’m really thankful for my time there and for the leadership I’ve experienced. I think it’s similar DNA to FCS.” She paused, switching into thinking about the future shift. “I’m really excited about the hyper-local focus of FCS. It’s this nine-block radius. We can just hone in and work together for this area.”
Beyond the organization behind the work, Michelle prioritizes the relationships she’s gotten to build with the members of the youth group. “They inspire me,” she says, “they remind me that it’s worth taking the risk of trusting someone who’s different than you. They show me what resilience looks like, and that there’s beauty in innocence and undying hope.”
We are grateful for the many hands who have incubated and cared for the South Atlanta Youth Group over the years. We’re eager to receive this tiny, beloved community and steward it under Michelle’s attentive leadership.