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Volunteers pour passion into getting youth to ‘GO’ to Presbyterian Youth Triennium

Teenagers who connect to ‘vastness of our faith’ emerge in key leadership positions

November 16, 2015

LOUISVILLE

Ann Graham and Christy D’Ambrosio have deeply impacted the lives of more than 100 youth through their volunteer efforts for the Presbyterian Youth Triennium. As registrars for their respective presbyteries, both are passionate about sending as many kids as possible to Triennium because of what they see as its ripple effect teenagers lives.

“They tell me ‘I had no idea there were people like me,’” says Graham. “Triennium’s diversity helps them feel less marginalized. It connects and helps them understand the vastness of our faith.”

Graham, who lives outside Lynchburg, Va., went to her first Triennium as an adult in 2004 and has handled registration for Presbytery of the Peaks ever since. She’s hoping that a record number of teens—she’s aiming for 45 from her presbytery—‘GO’ to the 2016 Triennium.

“I feel strongly that we should try to send as many kids as possible,” she says. “I’ve never had anyone’s child come back and say, ‘no, that was a mistake I shouldn’t have done that.’”

D’Ambrosio, a youth director in upstate New York, missed going to Triennium in 2010 because of a family wedding. After hearing stories from those who went, she felt strongly that she should be available to go in 2013 so she volunteered to be registrar for Albany Presbytery.

“It was so energizing, to be with 5,000 youth, singing, dancing—worshiping God together,” says D’Ambrosio. “We became so attached to youth from other churches in our presbytery. Now we do many new things together, including whenever we do lockdowns at First Presbyterian Church (Albany).”

Triennium volunteers say experiences like having communion outdoors at night with 5,000 other Presbyterian youth have a lasting impact on a teenager’s life.

Triennium volunteers say experiences like having communion outdoors at night with 5,000 other Presbyterian youth have a lasting impact on a teenager’s life. —Ann Graham

As a “surrogate parent and youth director,” D’Ambrosio believes this is where the lasting impact of Triennium begins, with kids developing a national peer group—which includes interaction with adults—that places a great value on faith as a framework for one’s life.

“Youth place great importance on peer groups,” she says. “Those they hang out with and choose not to hang out with can send them off on good or bad tangents. I sense with kids that go to Triennium this faith peer group elbowing out those that aren’t pushing them in a positive direction.”

In 2004 Graham says it was a big deal at Triennium to get e-mails and talk to each other occasionally. But with the explosion of social media she sees Presbyterian Youth taking the connectionalism that happens at Triennium to another level, including Facebook groups that link them to others they’ve met.

“They’re getting connected to UKirk [PC(USA) Collegiate] ministries before they go off to college,” says Graham. “They’re more willing to teach Sunday school, and many are going to seminary, into youth ministry, or intentionally choosing a vocation that help others.”

D’Ambrosio sees the impact Triennium has made the lives of the youth in her presbytery too. No matter where they are the faith continuum.

“It’s huge,” she says. “Whether on the scale of deepening their faith, or less positive about their spiritual journey, Triennium has helped them get their concept of God in perspective. I see them all making faithful decisions about what they believe—and what they want to do with the years they have as a youth.

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Want to make a difference in the lives of teenagers? Click here to become a small group leader or community life volunteer at the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium, July 19-23, at Purdue University in Indiana.