Conversation with Christian youth educator kicks off season eight
by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — “I spent a lot of time pushing away the call that I had, even as a teenager and child. My grandmother told me I cut up her Bible when I was 3 years old. I think she wouldn’t let us watch ‘Hee Haw’ or ‘Love Boat.’”
Despite her inauspicious beginnings, Gina Yeager-Buckley, mission associate for Christian Formation of Youth of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has become an enthusiastic advocate for young people in the church. She is the featured guest on the newest episode of the “New Way” podcast, a two-part conversation hosted by the Rev. Sara Hayden.
“Who doesn’t want a ministry leader that cuts up the Bible a little bit?” Hayden facetiously noted as the two of them launched into a conversation about how listening to others’ stories sets the foundation for a just future — a skill that Yeager-Buckley calls “holy listening.”
Holy listening “requires practice, it requires you in every conversation to imagine pushing your voice down so that your ears are doing all the work they can,” said Yeager-Buckley. “I’ve learned that it’s very challenging, but when you invite people to do it, there’s a sigh of relief — ‘I don’t have to be smart, I don’t have to share my opinion. I’m going to truly listen.’ There’s almost a joy that people have when they are reminded to practice holy listening.”
Yeager-Buckley, who was recently named the 2022 Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Enrich/Educator of the Year, has directed the Presbyterian Youth Triennium since 1998, helped launch the Presbyterian Youth Workers’ Association, and has done a lot of research around Generation Z — a demographic generally defined as those born between 1997 and 2012. She thinks the social media app TikTok is a peek into connecting and marketing to the “Gen Z” crowd.
“They immerse themselves in information, trends, music, artists. They just don’t like a song; they will find out everything about the artist. They love information and love to be part of a solution.”
The second segment delves into Gen Z’s innate activism, and how to empower young people to understand the steps it takes to build relationships amid a pandemic. Hayden noted the importance of risk mitigation, but there’s also value in helping youth take risks, including understanding the terror and necessity behind it.
“To be in the gospel, to follow Jesus Christ, is risky,” said Yeager-Buckley. “You risk money, relationship, reputation, failure. I just believe we are not kind about failure in the church, and so we’re teaching our kids also that you can’t mess up, or you can’t make a mistake, and I think that’s the worst thing we can model. I think we have to learn to risk, and then to weigh the outcomes fairly rather than ‘success or fail.’ There’s a lot of risk in ministry in general.”
For the latest episode of the “New Way” podcast — and the previous seven seasons — click here.
The “New Way” podcast is produced by Atlanta-based artist and pastor the Rev. Marthame Sanders, who also hosts the weekly podcast “Aijcast,” which is part of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement.
In 2012, the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA) declared a commitment to this churchwide movement that would result in the creation of 1001 worshiping communities over 10 years. At a grassroots level, nearly 600 diverse new worshiping communities have formed across the nation.
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Tags: 1001 new way podcast, 1001 new worshiping communities, christian youth educator, Gen Z, Presbyterian Youth Triennium, Presbyterian Youth Workers’ Association (PYWA), relationships
Tags: associate for christian, associate for christian formation, christian formation, christian formation of youth, conversation, formation of youth, gina yeager-buckley, holy listening, mission associate, mission associate for christian, mission associate for christian formation, new worshiping, new worshiping communities, presbyterian, presbyterian youth, sara hayden, worshiping communities, yeager-buckley, young people, youth
Ministries: Youth Ministry, 1001 New Worshiping Communities