Cornerstone Church Pastor Hayden Norris (left) and Heather Norris, youth ministry coordinator, pose outside the classroom building of Cornerstone Church, where they hold a variety of programs for Christian youth in Holtville on Feb. 29. | William Roller photo
HOLTVILLE — (Summary: Youth ministry leader, a late comer to Christianity, discovers her calling as an adult.)
Although she didn’t grow up in the church with a
foundation in the kind of Christian education she now directs, Heather Norris
has excelled in her role and as a pastor’s wife.
“I did not grow up in a church, so giving kids an
opportunity to learn about the Bible is gratifying,” Heather Norris said
during a Feb. 29 interview at Cornerstone Community Church in Holtville, where
she is youth ministry coordinator and her husband, Hayden Norris, is pastor.
“Children that age are still impressionable, have good
memories and soak up new material like sponges,” she said.
“I don’t feel any pressure, but I choose to serve with
the Vacation Bible school and Kids 4 Truth (youth ministry program),”
Heather said of her roles, which ultimately support her husband’s work in the
community. She has served in her position at the church for three years.
Cornerstone Community Church is at 128 W. Sixth St.
Established 106 years ago in Holtville, Cornerstone has nearly 140 congregants.
Worship service starts at 10:15 a.m. Sundays. Following the opening hymns,
children are dismissed to attend their own church service programs.
The need for Christian education
Heather Norris explained the church aims to help
children identify their life in Christ and not just what their peers say.
“I became a Christian in high school when a
friend invited me to a youth group in Santa Clarita at a local Baptist
church,” she recalled. “I was a miserable teen searching for a
purpose and identity. I really wrestled with it. But the pastor answered all my
questions. I ended up in a youth group there where we studied scripture and
sang music and had games.”
Eventually, Heather Norris went on missions with that
church to Antigua and Tijuana and invited local residents to worship service
and Bible classes.
“I would like children to understand going to
church is not just because their parents bring them,” Heather Norris said.
“God wants children to believe in their own hearts. It’s not just a Sunday
thing, but also when you pick a fight with your brother or a classmate out on
the baseball field. We want to impart the Gospel message in everything we
The youth ministry coordinator helps do that through
the programs she helps administer, including vacation Bible school that will
take place June 15-19 at the church and Kids 4 Truth, a Wednesday evening
program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
At Kids 4 Truth, students study the Bible and then
break for crafts projects. In vacation Bible school, a theme is selected, typically
a beach scenario, pirates or a safari that incorporates a theme in proper
context, Heather Norris said, and then explains a biblical lesson using the
theme as a metaphor.
Cornerstone aims to teach children Christianity’s
timeline from Genesis to Revelation.
Heather Norris and Pastor Hayden Norris teach children
the basics but Dylan Ruddell, youth leader, shows how to apply timeless
biblical lessons to everyday life in the 21st century, Heather Norris
Lynn Vanderlinden is Cornerstone’s mentor assistant,
working closely with Ruddell. They meet with junior high school students on
Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
“We generally have singing, praise songs, so
they’re always upbeat and it allows them to burn off energy in a good
way,” Vanderlinden said. “Dylan has a talk with them about a biblical
passage that includes concepts that applies to everyday life. And the students
can bring up any problems they may have, but it relates to the Bible passage he
Vanderlinden and Ruddell go through the 66 books of
the Bible one book at a time. The youth group is named “C3 Underground,” which
refers to the three C’s of Cornerstone Community Church and the fact they meet
in the basement of the building, or the underground.
Youth ministry embraces bigger picture of social engagement
“I love the C3 because it’s a good way to show
students how the church cares for them,” Vanderlinden said. “We also
explain Christ is always there for them, even if everybody else lets them
Arriving soon is Cornerstone’s spring tri-tip barbecue
fundraiser to help children attend summer camp. High school students go to the
Hume Lake Camp, near Nazarene University in San Diego. Third- to eighth-grade
students attend Thousand Pines Camp in Crestline (San Bernardino).
Children stay for one week while going swimming and doing
crafts as well as attending chapel services.
A family camp is also held over the Memorial Day
weekend when the Sunday service is held in camp along Lake Cuyamaca in Julian.
Parishioners go fishing, hiking and do family Olympics-style competition.
love it, since it’s a great way to get to know our members better and kids can
make new friends or deepen friendships they already have,” Heather Norris
said. “And we have a pie auction every January and potluck dinners throughout