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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Partnership key to Presbyterian youth workers resurgence


Thanks to administration and financial support, PYWA accomplishing goals it set long ago

October 12, 2021

Shannon Guse (lower left) is photographed pre-pandemic with some of the youth at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, Florida, where she has served for 16 years. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Guse)

Feedback from cohort groups sponsored by the Office of Christian Formation for Presbyterian Youth Workers Association has been so positive that the organization is considering making it part of it regular life.

According to PYWA executive director Brian Kuhn, the three cohort groups offered this past spring — “Revisiting the Basics,” “New Models in Youth Ministry” and “LGBTQIA+ Youth” — were a step in that direction.

“Based on what we learned last fall when we began offering cohorts to support youth workers in the midst of a pandemic, we’re focusing on education and support,” Kuhn said.  “As a result, the spring cohorts filled up very quickly. We’re already getting requests for topics, which we hope will launch this fall.”

On May 1, PYWA released its first training videos addressing the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth. The four-part video series, produced by More Light Presbyterians, is a direct offshoot of one of the cohort groups.

“The information More Light presented was too good to keep to one cohort group,” Kuhn said. “Some of the most frequent questions we get from our youth workers are LGBTQIA+ questions.”

While Kuhn is excited to share videos with all PYWA members, he hopes these videos become standard viewing for all youth workers as they create faithful, inclusive and loving space for all. Having access to the LGBTQIA+ Youth videos and the Crossroads Antiracism and Organization Training videos, he said, are more than worth the price of a PYWA membership.

On PYWA’s Youth Workers Day of Sabbath on May 27, PYWA board member Lauren Scott and others stuffed Sabbath Boxes, which were sent to those participating in a day of rest and connection.

“It’s been fun partnering with different people who are helping us fill these boxes,” Scott said. “Camp and conference centers have given us plenty of swag. Prayers have been sent along with mugs, and there are options for summer resources for youth workers to consider.”

Because of the pandemic, Scott said it was important these Sabbath boxes contain tangible items to help the youth workers fill connected to one another, to God and to themselves. As a seminary student at Columbia Theological Seminary and part-time youth worker at a church, she said she was looking forward to the May 27 Sabbath Day.

“I’m so tired. There’s been so much stress and anxiety during this time of pandemic,” she said. “The midday prayer time with Gina Yeager-Buckley [associate for Presbyterian Youth and Triennium] will be a place for lament and thanksgiving — and support for whatever is on the minds and hearts of those who want to connect with God.”

And Zoom evening worship with Columbia Seminary’s Dr. Christine Hong centered on the “Renewed in Hope” Sabbath Day theme, from 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

The “Renewed in Hope” theme came at a time of renewed partnership within the Presbyterian Mission Agency through the Office of Christian Formation and the partners in its  Christian Formation Collective. That in turn has led to partnerships with other PC(USA) organizations. Kuhn said this is pushing PYWA into other areas the association might never have considered before.

“At the same time, we are able to highlight our gifts and improve the work of the partner organizations,” he said. “It’s a win for everyone involved.”

Added PYWA board member Shannon Guse, director of Christian education for youth and young adults at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee, Florida: “It’s been transformative for us.  It’s allowing us to accomplish goals we set long ago and dream in ways we weren’t able to before, because of administration and financial support.”

Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Youth Workers

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Khulan Baigalimaa, Trust Operations Administrator-Funds Services, Presbyterian Foundation
Janelle Baker, Mission Specialist, Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Holy God, we give you thanks for all those working to live lives of abundance. In a time of scarcity, help us to celebrate all the signs of your abundance in our communities and world. Empower us to share with one another from the abundance of your love. Amen.