An epic New Year’s Eve party is planned for area youths.

“This year is going to be hot,” said David Gutierrez, youth pastor at Living Faith Church. “I don’t want that stigma that church is boring.”

The New Year’s Eve Lock-In is Monday, Dec. 31 beginning at 7 p.m. at Living Faith, 1611 Diagonal Blvd., Hermiston. While the event begins and ends at Living Faith, church buses will transport youths and chaperones to other destinations, including KnockerBall at the Hermiston Christian Center and laser tag at Campus Life. Other activities available include a Fortnite dance battle, board games, pool, ping pong, basketball, a movie, pizza and much more.

The entourage will return to Living Faith at midnight to ring in the New Year with live music and an inspirational message. The event ends Tuesday, Jan. 1 at 1:30 a.m.

Open to youths ages 12-18, the auxiliary activities will be split with middle school students at one destination while high school students will be at the other. The cost is $15 per person, which is payable at the door.

Initially organized by Living Faith, the idea behind the New Year’s Eve Lock-In was to provide a fun and safe night for youths, Gutierrez said. In the fall of 2015 when he started at Living Faith, several other youth leadership positions were filled in the area. Rather than being exclusive and focusing on activities for just their own groups, Gutierrez said the leaders decided to work together collaboratively.

“It kind of exploded from there,” he said. “Last year, 230 students attended. It was more than we were expecting.”

Born and raised in Hermiston, Gutierrez said as a teen he started making some bad choices. When he was 16, he moved to Salem — and later Centralia, Washington — when an aunt and uncle took him in. They were pastors and introduced Gutierrez to Christ.

Around the age of 24, Gutierrez decided to go into youth ministry. With a naturally cheery and upbeat personality, coupled with high energy and social awkwardness at times, he said it seemed to be the perfect combination.

“I was able to get my energy out and connect with teens on a personal level,” he said. “And they were helping me, too.”

As far as deciding the type of activities for the lock-in, Gutierrez takes the pulse of current trends — talking to teens and other group leaders.

“I purposely try to follow trends to see what is hot or not,” he said. “I want to do things that attract teens. I don’t want a boring party.”

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