From references of Superman, Xbox and even 80s pop singer Rick Astley, the first-ever Northern Illinois Conference social media meme contest was a hit. Nine youth and young adults submitted their original memes for the “What does Jesus Meme to Me?” contest held this spring.
After posting the images on the NIC social media sites, the contest opened up for voting. After nearly 300 votes, the winners were revealed on May 26 during a virtual ceremony through a Zoom video conference call attended by first place winners, their families, Bishop Sally Dyck and members of the NIC Discipleship Task Force.
Deacon Sharon Rice, youth pastor at First UMC in Belvidere and task force member, said the contest was a great way for the youth to express their faith, their relationship with Jesus and the Church, as well as provide a healthy dose of humor.
“May these memes continue to bring a smile to your face, but also inspire you to think of creative ways to share your faith and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Rice said before announcing the winners during the ceremony.
The winners are:
8th grade & under
1st: Addyson Hill, “Blood of Jesus,” $100
2nd: David Laird, “Vectored!” $75
3rd: Aiden Jepson, Resist the Devil, $50
9th – 12th grade
1st: Sophie Tillema, “Never Gonna’ Give You Up,” $100
2nd: Isabella Pena, “Superman,” $75
3rd: Bryce Jepson, “Jesus Seeing A.D.” $50
Young adult through 21 years old
1st: Rebecca Siems, “Judge Not,” $100
Bishop Dyck applauded all the participants and said “everyone is a winner” including all those who viewed the memes. “Everyone who created these memes had to think about what they would say to articulate their faith, which is not an easy process,” said Dyck who added it’s a process we all need to work on. “I wish every United Methodist would figure out their own meme!”
Addyson, 12, from First UMC in Lockport said she was inspired to create her meme after finding a funny photo on her camera roll of her sister underneath a larger-than-life wine glass. “I immediately thought of communion and that’ it’s really important and we all need the blood of Christ.”
Sophie, 15, from First UMC in Belivdere said she wanted to create a meme that was music related so she thought both the younger and older generation could relate to Rick Astly and his song, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
“What I hope people take away from my meme is that especially during this time of the pandemic they know Jesus has our back and when we don’t have control over things we really can trust in Him believing He is going to take care of us,” said Sophie.
Rebbeca Siems, 20, who is a student at University Christian Ministry at Northwestern University, said her meme featuring Pam from the sitcom “The Office” shows that judging other people’s sins is sinning.
“Choosing to judge and exclude others because of their sins is also a sin, and we should invite others to sit at our table with us instead of acting like we're too good to interact with other sinners because that's something Jesus is adamantly against,” said Siems. "I believe that Jesus loves everyone no matter how flawed we are and should be the final and only judge.”
The contest memes received dozens of likes and were shared multiple times from the NIC Facebook page. Dyck said the memes were, in a sense, a viral blessing.
“I hope everyone who received any of these memes, and we don’t know all who received them, will be blessed by them,” said Dyck. “Let’s continue to think about our faith and grow in our discipleship by finding creative ways like this context to share our faith.”