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Begin the week as strangers, end the week as friends


Triennium small groups give attendees a sense of community

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterian Youth Triennium small groups became places to share and grow for the thousands of youth in attendance,  including, from left, Emma S. of the Presbytery of West Jersey and Desiree K. of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. (Photo by Paul Seebeck)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Presbyterian Youth Triennium small group leader Andrea Paschal said she has been blown away this week by how wonderful, creative and loving the youth are.

“Seeing their love for each other grow as they make connections in the family of God energizes me,” she said. “We begin as strangers but end the week as friends.”

This is the seventh time Paschal has volunteered as a small group leader. The faith formation director at Forest Lake Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina went to the first Triennium in 1980, right after she had graduated from high school.

“There were so many wonderful people guiding me,” she said. “I decided volunteering as one of the small group leaders when I could over the years might pay it forward.”

The main thing Paschal enjoys about Triennium is getting to know youth and making sure they know they are children of the God who loves them, no matter what.

During one of their final small group meetings for the week the youth talked with Paschal about trust.

“Sometimes, that can feel scary,” said Emma S. from the Presbytery of West Jersey.

“It’s not always easy to trust people, or God,” Paschal acknowledged, “But you can’t hold back.”

Then she asked the youth, “What happens when your anxiety level goes up?”

“You shut down,” said Glenn J. from Missouri Union Presbytery.

Andrea Paschal has been one of nearly 100 small group leaders at Presbyterian Youth Triennium. (Photo by Paul Seebeck)

“Have you ever been in school where that happens?” asked Paschal. In the silence that followed, she said to the group, “Here’s a hint: God is always present, and you can always have hard conversations with God.”

Paschal has enjoyed studying the Bible with her small group at Triennium this week, in part because of their interesting insights. On Thursday they were talking about the parable of prodigal son — where the father in the story throws a party to welcome home his wayward son, who has blown all of his inheritance. The older son, who stayed home and remained obedient to the father, is resentful.

“As we talked about the story the group decided that they didn’t know enough about the family relationships,” Paschal said.  “That was a new twist.”

Another Triennium small group leader, the Rev. Celeste Lasich, said she had similar experiences with her small group. Some members, she said, were “double PKs,” where both parents are pastors. Others were hearing the prodigal son story for the first time.

“Half the kids in my group identified more with the older brother,” she said. “And then they spent some together wrestling with their family relationships.”

Lasich, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hays, Kansas, talked with the youth about God’s love and acceptance, about how forgiveness is given, and about how youth can let go of their resentments. In those hard conversations, she said she realized something about synergy.

“We were all so different,” Lasich said, “but together we were able to make something bigger and more beautiful.”

Nearly 100 small group leaders are at Presbyterian Youth Triennium this year. Each leader taught two small groups, so together the leaders served youth in almost 200 small groups.


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