Native American Young Adult Council gathers in Louisville

Outlines challenges, focuses on equipping future leaders

October 1, 2015

NAYAC members (left to right): Michael Nez, Gila River Indian Community, AZ; Carlee Alex, Livingston, TX; Brittany Stephens, Flandreau, SD; Morgan Poncho, Livingston, TX; Bernitta Langley, advisor, Livingston, TX; Laine Langley, Livingston, TX; Jason Chavez, advisor, Richmond, VA.

NAYAC members (left to right): Michael Nez, Gila River Indian Community, AZ; Carlee Alex, Livingston, TX; Brittany Stephens, Flandreau, SD; Morgan Poncho, Livingston, TX; Bernitta Langley, advisor, Livingston, TX; Laine Langley, Livingston, TX; Jason Chavez, advisor, Richmond, VA. —Irv Porter

LOUISVILLE

The Native American Young Adult Council (NAYAC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gathered in Louisville for its first meeting this past weekend. The group explored questions about young adult ministry for Native American women and men in the context of today’s church, and worked with the Council’s advisors on developing leadership skills needed to meet the unique challenges of Native American ministry. The group also strategized about the work that the Council will be doing on behalf of and with Native American young adults throughout the country.

Most of the young adults on the Council are alumni of the American Indian Youth Council.

“Native Americans have been an active presence in the church, and it’s critical that we work with our youth and young adults to help them develop their faith and leadership skills to help meet the needs of our unique ministry,” said the Rev. Irvin Porter, associate for Native American Congregational Support in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “Our goal with the Council and these gatherings is to equip these young women and men for leadership in the church by providing them with tools and resources, including advisory and staff support. We’d like to see them planning and executing their own gathering or events in the next year or so based on the needs they see in our church today.”

The Council will hold regular conference calls to continue training. “We’re preparingthese young adults up for future leadership in the church, and that means we need more than a ‘one and done’ approach. We need to help establish a solid foundation that they can then build upon,” said Porter.

The gathering was held immediately following Native American Day, celebrated during a Sept. 22 chapel service at the PC(USA) center, at which Porter said, “Native American congregations and worshiping communities face other unique challenges, including a shortage of ordained Native American clergy, which often leaves churches to rely on lay leadership, as many of these congregations cannot meet the presbytery minimum salary necessary to pay a full time pastor. These challenges haven’t stopped our Native American churches, however. They rely on connections and partnerships between non-native and native churches to focus on mission projects. Groups are working together in their local communities, helping meet the needs of the church, as well as families and individuals.”

He added, “That’s why this gathering with these young adults on the Council is so important. We need to be sure we’re training current and future leaders of the church together.”

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Today there are 95 Native American congregations and chapels located on reservations, and a total of 21 presbyteries and seven synods include Native American constituents.

To learn more about the work of the council or the Native American Congregational Support Office, visit www.pcusa.org/nativeamerican