For one youth, messages have lasting value

Pentecost Offering supports Presbyterian Youth Triennium’s effort to inspire deeper faith

by Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service

Kylie Carlson (center) said the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium experience helped her and other youth “have more in-depth, personal conversations about our faith.” (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE— In an age when fleeting social media messages saturate the lives of teens, Kylie Carlson treasures the lasting impact of some powerful words scrawled on tiny slips of paper.

For three years, she has kept the messages that were stashed in her “Compliment Bag” at the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium. They were put there by members of her small group, and the affirmations range from casual to transformational.

One member wrote to Kylie, “You are a good public speaker.” These words were particularly significant for her because Kylie, who had just finished her freshman year in high school, was fearful of public speaking. The compliment came after the writer heard Kylie speak in a small group.

“It stuck with me,” Kylie said. It helped her gain confidence, and today she considers herself more than proficient when she stands before audiences to speak.

While these affirmations written on paper were meaningful for Kylie, even more significant for her were the Triennium’s messages of faith that were written on her heart. Kylie had completed confirmation classes at her church, First Presbyterian Church in Britton, South Dakota, not long before her youth group attended Triennium. Both events were significant spiritual milestones, Kylie said.

“Before confirmation, it was like you went to church because your parents did, but now we have a more personal connection” with faith, she explained. “Then we went to Triennium, and it became even more personal. It was really amazing to hear the speakers and relate their faith to yours.”

Kylie Carlson and other youth from South Dakota Presbytery were among the more than 5,000 participants at the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium.(Contributed photo)

In her hometown of Britton (population 1,250), only a handful of youth attends Kylie’s congregation, the town’s only Presbyterian church.  At Triennium, which brings together up to 5,000 participants, she got a glimpse of the expansiveness of her faith tradition.  “It was amazing to see all the people who were there sharing the same faith as I did and felt the same way about it as I did.”

In addition to helping the youth from Britton develop a closer relationship with God, Triennium created a shared experience for them that helped them build closer personal bonds, she said.  “We were really able to have more in-depth, personal conversations about our faith.”

Thanks in part to gifts to the Pentecost Offering, another Triennium will be held at Purdue University July 16-20, and Kylie is excited that she and her youth group are going.  One month after Triennium, Kylie will begin studies at South Dakota State University, where she will major in journalism.

While a high school student, Kylie interned at her local newspaper, the Marshall County Journal. “I really love writing and telling stories in general,” she said. Kylie looks forward to her studies and other college-related opportunities, and she anticipates seeking a Presbyterian church to serve as a “spiritual home near campus.” She also expects to maintain ties to her home congregation.

Across the United States, thousands of Presbyterians attest to the spiritual significance that Triennium, a Presbyterian tradition since 1980, has had on their faith journey. The Pentecost Offering enables the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to hold this event and offer other ministries with youth. The Offering also helps ministries that serve children at risk, and it supports the Young Adult Volunteer program.

Forty percent of the Offering can be retained by congregations wanting to make an impact on young people in their own communities, and the remaining 60 percent goes to ministries of the national church. Most congregations receive the Offering on Pentecost Sunday, which this year falls on June 9.

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