Middle School FL Electives



1. Friend or Foe? Exploring the Beauty and Brokenness of Relationships in the Real World

Matthew Icard
Pastor of Youth & Families
Clemson, SC

Matthew grew up in the foothills of South Carolina. After a few stopovers in Roanoke and Charlotte, he accepted a call back to South Carolina to become the Pastor of Youth and Families at Clemson Presbyterian Church. When he’s not spending time with students and parents, Matthew is usually tinkering with his old Jeep, attempting to play his trusty guitar, or fondly reflecting on Clemson’s 2016 National Championship. Matthew and his wonderfully creative, amazingly intelligent, and fantastically talented wife, Rachel, have been married for 7 years.

News flash — relationships are hard! Just think about it. We’ve all been really hurt by people that we really trusted. We’ve all felt lonely, forgotten, or betrayed. We’ve all looked for approval and acceptance only to find resentment and rejection.  We’ve all struggled with anger, jealousy, and bitterness, and we’ve all been slow to extend forgiveness. So why does this happen? I mean, why are our relationships at home, at school, and at church so frustrating and sometimes just so downright ugly? In this elective, we’re going to talk about the realities of living life alongside other people in a messy, fallen world. We’re going to look at the good and the bad and learn that the gospel brings real hope, real life, and real freedom to all our relationships (even the hard ones). 

2. Idolators Anonymous

Ben Griffith
Minister of Students
Hattiesburg, MS

Ben is the Youth Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS, where he's served for nine years. His wife and three children are the best thing about him, he's a big fan of RYM, he isn't spectacular at anything, and is learning to be ok with that.

We are all idolators. You may not worship a little statue on your bookshelf every night (if you do, we need to talk), but chances are there's a goal, a person, a desire, or something else that has taken on god-like proportions in your life. Idols are good things or bad things that we turn into ultimate things; they're "counterfeit gods." We're very good at making them, and they're very good at ruining us. A Christian writer once said, "the secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart." Join us as we discover how true this is, and how the Gospel is good news for idolators.

3. #IdentityGoals (GIRLS ONLY)

Mary Cam Shaw
Assistant director of youth
Montgomery, AL

Mary Cam Shaw is from Montgomery, Alabama. Mary Cam graduated from Auburn University with a B.A. in Early Childhood Education.  She and her husband Zack have been married for three years. In her spare time she does calligraphy and even has her own stationery shop on Etsy. She is currently serving at the Assistant Director of Youth at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama. 

If someone had to describe you in just a few sentences, what would they say? Would they talk about your abilities?…she’s a good tennis player. Would they focus on your physical characteristics? …she’s tall. Would they identify you by your relationships? ...she has the baseball player boyfriend? Would they bring up your accomplishments? …she makes straight A’s! Would they mention your personality? …she’s so funny. There are so many places from where we can draw our identity. What does it look like to have our identity in Christ? That’s what we’ll cover in this girls-only elective. 

4. The Bible: Old & Irrelevant, Right?

JonPaul Watson
Associate pastor to students
greenville, nc

JonPaul serves at Christ Presbyterian Church in Winterville, NC, as the Associate Pastor to Students. He’s married to Carrie Ann, and they have four children, Lucy, Judah, Luke, and Jane. While he tries not to be too hipster, he does have a sweet beard, knows a lot about bands from Seattle, and really likes to drink locally roasted coffee. He has fostered in his students a love of documentaries and wants to be a sports analyst when he grows up.

Do you feel like the Bible is boring? Like you’ve read every story before or heard it all Sunday School since day one? Do you feel like the Bible is hard to understand? Like you have to be a pastor to try to figure out what it all means? When you try to read it, do you ask yourself, “How does this apply to my life, to what I’m going through right now?” With so many things promising us quick entertainment and immediate pleasure, sometimes reading and studying the Bible can seem like just one more tedious chore to check off the list. Sometimes reading and understanding God’s word can be difficult, and that makes us feel like it’s just a bunch of old dull stories that don’t apply to our lives. In this elective we will talk about why the Bible might seem boring and hard to understand, how to study it, and what it means for our lives. 

5. Did I Choose God or Did God Choose Me?

Kurt Cooper
Minister to Youth
Trinity Presbyterian Church
Montgomery, AL

Kurt was born in Charleston, South Carolina, but calls Tupelo, Mississippi, his hometown. He is married to Marty, also from Tupelo, and they have one son, Campbell. Kurt received a B.A. in business administration from Mississippi State University, and his M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary. He serves as the Minster to Youth at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, AL.

Did you choose this elective or did this elective choose you? What does it mean to have free will? How free are our wills? If my friend, Will, is in prison, do I still have free Will? Do human choices matter? Is choice an illusion? What does the bible say about these questions? Are you thoroughly confused? Good, because these are the kind of questions we'll be dealing with in this elective. Come join us...or don't. Either way, the choice is yours...or is it?

6. Making Sense of the Struggle

JOey Stewart
RYM Executive Director
Signal Mountain, TN

Joey graduated from the University of Mississippi with a BA in Psychology where he also became heavily involved in the ministry of Reformed University Fellowship. After college he attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and graduated with a Master of Divinity in 1992.
After spending several summers ministering to youth at camps such as Alpine Camp for Boys in Mentone, AL and Twin Lakes Camp in Florence, MS, he became the director of youth and educational ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City, MS where he ministered for nearly 5 years.
In 1993 he accepted a call to become the assistant pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Crossville, TN with the responsibility of planting a PCA church in Cookeville, TN. Grace Presbyterian Mission was immediately formed and he remained in Cookeville as the organizing pastor and later senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, PCA for 14 years. He then accepted a call in February of 2007 to become the Executive Director of Reformed Youth Movement (RYM).
Joey has served on the TN Area Joint Presbytery Committee on Campus Ministry (RUF) since 1994 and as chairman of that committee since 1998. He has also served on several General Assembly RUF committees. Additionally, he has been a member of the board of directors for Reformed Youth Movement since 1990 and possesses a resolute zeal and passion to serve the church and extend the kingdom through the expanding mission of RYM.
Joey is married to the beautiful Connie Cawthorn and together they have four children: Ashley Grace (Wilkinson), Joseph Wesley, Hannah Faith and Jennifer Cawthorn as well as a Hungarian Sheepdog, Maggie.

Do you feel like you never measure up spiritually? Do you feel like your day is shot if you neglected to have your devotional that morning? Do you constantly live under a load of guilt and shame? Do you feel like you don’t belong in the presence of God? Do you see God more as a harsh Drill Sergeant rather than your loving, compassionate Father? If so, then this class is for you. We’ll take a look at who God is, and what he has actually accomplished for every one of His children in the act of His free grace called: Justification. Then we’ll see how that changes our lives forever especially in regard to our struggle with sin. This is a class for strugglers…like me. Has He called you into a life of guilt and bondage, or to a life of freedom? Come and join us as we seek together to make sense of the struggle.

7. Finding Your Way in the Wilderness

MIchael Hall
RYM Training & Church Intern Coordinator
Charlottesville, VA

Michael is a Shreveport, LA, native, graduate of Ole Miss and Covenant Seminary, who has a distinct fondness for all things pork.  He has served as a Pastor for Students in three churches (SC, MO, & VA) over the past 20+ years and currently serves as the Training and Church Internship Coordinator for RYM.  He loves Jesus, His Church, and laboring that middle and high school students would as well!  Michael lives in Charlottesville, VA with his wife Kirby.  They have three children: McKenzie (15), Carter (14) & John Thomas (12).

While there is certainly a lot to learn in the great outdoors, this class isn't primarily concerned with finding your way home if you get lost in the woods!  While some of us have known the wilderness as a real place with various challenges and difficulties, we all experience “the wilderness” in the challenging and difficult seasons of our lives.  When we are “in the wilderness” we find ourselves feeling out of control (I can’t seem to do anything to change things! I can’t fix this!), without clarity (Why is this even happening?  How did I get here?), and also feeling a lack of consequence (Where is this going?  What’s going to happen next?).  Come to this class and hear how God meets His people “in the wilderness” and fills them with Himself...offering peace under His control, comfort amidst tons of questions, and courage to press on knowing He is with you.  Life is hard y’all...God wants you to know that He get’s it and to experience Him right in the middle of all of it.