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From ages and stages ministry to intergenerational faith formation

PC(USA) Christian Formation team seeks collaborative approach

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Jason Brian Santos (center) at the first-ever gathering of the five ‘ages and stages’ ministry associations of the PC(USA). (Photo by Brian Frick)

LOUISVILLE — For the first time ever, representatives from the five “ages and stages” ministry associations that work in Christian formation were in the same room, at the same time, with the same goal: to figure out how they might more collaboratively work together with the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). Ministries represented were:

  • Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE)
  • Presbyterian Youth Workers Association (PYWA)
  • UKirk Network–PC(USA) Collegiate Ministries (UKirk)
  • Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference Association (PCCCA)
  • Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network (POAMN)

Each group was invited to send representatives to Stony Point Center recently for a two-day gathering organized by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Christian formation team, which is led by the Rev. Dr. Jason Brian Santos.

“We’re all working on various ages and stages of formation,” said Santos. “My question for all us was, ‘Why aren’t we doing more of it together?’”

Aware that relationships between several of the associations and PMA have been strained in the past, those gathered spent the first morning sharing stories about what they do and how they have worked with the national office over the years.

“The first thing we did was reconcile for the ways we haven’t connected with and supported them in the past,” said Santos. “Then each of them had a chance to share about how their work supported lifelong formation. This opened the door to new dialogue about how we might support them faithfully.”

On the second day, Santos shared with them some of the challenges and hopes their team had for Christian formation in the denomination. The conversation centered around two questions: How could the national office collaborate with each them better? And how might PMA encourage collaboration among them, with a particular emphasis on intergenerational faith formation?

The Theology Formation and Evangelism staff has spent the last couple of years wrestling with these questions. As coordinator of a team responsible for children, youth, young adult, collegiate, camp and conference centers and Christian education, Santos increasingly recognized the difficulty of covering these ages and stages ministries well.

“We’re a small staff, with a small budget,” he said of their team, which includes associates Gina Yeager-Buckley and Brian Frick.

“We’ve come to a place where we have less time to work on all the different ages and stages ministries and we’d like to have more time to work with presbyteries on intergenerational faith formation.”

To encourage the ages and stages ministry in each of their covenant partners’ work, Christian Formation will offer financial support for leadership development in each association, beginning in the 2019-2020 budget years.

The team will also support covenant partners who both collaborate with PMA to do ages and stages ministry and with each other in doing intergenerational ministry.

“We have much to gain by working side by side with these ministries,” said PCCCA executive director Joel Winchip. “I see the possibility of joint programs that will mutually benefit camps and conferences ministry as we seek to address the ages and stages of faith formation.”

POAMN director Michele Hendrix, has already had conversations about a possible collaborative project with UKirk, inviting collegiate ministry participants to present workshops at POAMN’s regional conference next spring.

“Our long-term goal is to work towards a mentor/coach model between 50+ers/older adults and college adults,” she said, “so that the wisdom of their years and professional experience can be shared with the next generation.”

“I see these PMA covenant partner groups paving a new way,” adds Preston Turley, Co-Moderator of the UKirk Network Board.

“Intergenerational ministry will be learned in the practice of trying, doing and even failing.  I found our conversations, at the gathering, fruitful.  Good things are coming.”

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The Christian Formation Team is:
Jason Brian Santos: Coordinator for Christian Formation, Collegiate Ministries & Christian Education
Gina Yeager-Buckley: Associate for Christian Formation: Children & Ministries with Youth
Brian Frick: Associate for Christian Formation: Young Adults and Camps & Conferences
Heather Leoncini: Administrative Staff for Christian Formation


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