Not just youth conferences
From an annual college conference to a worship and music conference, Montreat Conference Center is offering community and formation for young adults.
By Ina Hughes
Unless you’re cheese, age doesn’t matter. Or so they say. But the fact that the average age in PC(USA) congregations is 61 indicates that young adults—those 18- to 35-year-olds who are often either single or married without children—are not finding what they need in churches today.
With that in mind, Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina is working hard to revitalize that generation of the faith community by offering more programs and conference outreach for young adults.
As part of that mission, Montreat has partnered with In Christ Supporting Ministries (ICSM), a Charlotte-based organization validated by the PC(USA) and led by a staff of five church professionals who volunteer in a supplemental ministry tailored to fill the gaps within the work of the church.
Budget cuts often prohibit the hiring of specialized staff in congregations, and it is hard for pastors to do everything. Even the denomination has had to pull back considerably on national staff. ICSM steps into that gap and helps organize retreats, conferences, and community building for young adults—and Montreat Conference Center is the perfect venue.
Liz Key, a 28-year-old businesswoman and member of First Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tennessee, recently attended one such event at Montreat. What she found most rewarding was the opportunity to be with peers who are at a similar life stage.
“Young adults in the PC(USA) are searching for community,” she says. “It’s unintentional, and I don’t blame anybody, but we often get locked in with older people or couples with children. This conference at Montreat was very exciting and helpful, giving us a sense of community and making us feel like we really are a part of the church and that the church is listening to our hopes and dreams for the denomination and its future.”
Sarah Cromer, executive director of ICSM, looks forward to working with Montreat: “The staff is wonderful.”
But that is not the only way that Montreat goes about its ministry to young adults, who are already familiar with the Presbyterian Association of Musicians Worship and Music Conference as well as Montreat’s College Conference. The College Conference happens every January and hosts over 1,000 college students. Many of these students are continuing relationships that they made during a Montreat Youth Conference, while others are coming for the first time.
Montreat is well known for its youth conferences and the thousands of teens that come for life-changing experiences in the summer. Conferences geared toward church leadership, music, missions, and theological inquiry are the centerpiece of Montreat’s ministry. This new, intentional focus on young adults will further define the conference center’s mission: encountering God through relationships, renewal, recreation, and rest.
Bob Tuttle, vice president of the Center for Youth & Young Adult Ministry at Montreat Conference Center, is excited about helping to fill the gap in its outreach: “God calls each of us to share the love of Jesus Christ to all persons, and our witness and service to young adults is crucial,” he says, pointing out that Montreat plays a critical role in the lives of the 150 young adults who come to Montreat as summer staff.
“The young adult years are full of life decisions and important changes,” he says. “To recognize and celebrate this part of life’s journey, Montreat Conference Center must be deeply committed to providing community, leadership, and resources for young adults and those in ministry with them.”
Age doesn’t matter unless you are cheese? You won’t find those words written on the walls anywhere at Montreat.
Ina Hughes is the resident writer for Montreat Conference Center.
For more about Montreat Conference Center: montreat.org
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