When the organizers of the Pathways Youth Ministry Leader seminars said that one of their long-term goals in offering these specialized training events was to grow leaders among today’s Presbyterian youth, they never expected to see results so quickly.
“Last March, members of the Grace Presbytery youth council got up in the wee hours of the morning to drive three hours to Austin, Tex., for one of our Pathways seminars,” said the Rev. Aimee Wallis Buchanan, a Pathways leader and author of its new vocations workshop design. “Here we are, less than a year later, and six of those same youth are already stepping up into leadership roles for our upcoming event in Dallas.”
Pathways — a collaborative effort between the General Assembly Mission Council Office of Ministries with Youth, the PC(USA) Office of Christian Vocation and the Princeton Theological Seminary Institute for Youth Ministry — is designed to provide theological and practical training for volunteer youth leaders, pastors, and youth directors while offering a parallel track for youth, grades 9-12, who have the potential to be or who already are leaders in their congregations. Each unique, one-day training opportunity includes a specific component on vocation, in which young people are challenged to explore who God is calling them to be.
At the Dallas seminar on February 20 — the second of six regional Pathways events scheduled in 2010 — each of the six returning members of Grace Presbytery’s youth council will be paired with a member of the Pathways staff for a youth and adult team teaching experience.
“Whenever we do these Pathways events, we always hope that young people will go home saying, ‘I can lead,’” Buchanan said. “With the Dallas seminar, not only is it exciting for us to see that the fruits of our labor really can and do come to fruition, but it’s also a great way to put our program’s goals into action and show that it’s working.”
At the Dallas event, Buchanan will also take the lead in introducing the newly redesigned vocation curriculum for the Pathways youth track. “We have completely redone our vocation content for 2010,” said Martha Miller, associate for Christian Vocation. “Aimee and I have worked on an integrated new approach with ‘vocation weavings’ that connect the leader development workshops to the lives of the young people in ways that use key vocational questions. When we ask questions like ‘Who is God calling me to be’ and ‘How can I use my God-given gifts,’ it will all be related back to baptism, in which we all receive our calling and our name and are joined to Christ’s ministry.”
In addition to the vocation workshop, which is conducted in plenary session, the daylong program for youth also offers workshops on recreology — the theology of play — spiritual practices, and Bible study, all designed for youth to learn and to lead, even after the event is over.
Participants in the parallel adult track — which is geared toward volunteer youth leaders, parents, youth pastors and directors or anyone interested in ministry with youth – will be able to choose from a variety of workshops on timely and relevant topics.
“Pathways took its shape as a program around the longings expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 16, where we hear the author confirm, ‘You show me the path of life,” said Gina Yeager-Buckley, associate for Ministries with Youth. “It has been thrilling for those of us who plan and lead these seminars to watch as young people not only begin to uncover that path which God has so lovingly provided, but also to see how their unique gifts and passions might just reveal God’s path for others.”