Being cutting edge and entrepreneurial is in Andy James’s nature.
Only two years into his position as associate for small-church ministries and technology for the Presbytery of New Hope in Raleigh, N.C., his latest brainchild — in collaboration with Kevin Veldhuisen, transitional mission coordinator and stated clerk of the Presbytery of South Dakota — is a collective known as the Youngish Mid Council Leaders.
Veldhuisen and James and other youngish Presbyterian leaders organized it to address, not necessarily a problem, but a reality: the leaders of presbyteries and synods tend to be, well, oldish.
So far the young leaders have met three times.
“The group emerged out of several mid council leaders who recognized that the age at gatherings of leaders for presbyteries and synods tipped substantially older, even as the speakers and presentations emphasized the importance of making substantial shifts to adapt to a changing church and world,” said James, who co-convenes the group with Veldhuisen..
“As we chatted around the edges of these gatherings,” James added, “we recognized that because we faced many of the same challenges, including some that were particular to our age, generational difference, and other such factors, “it would be helpful to gather folks in the same room for conversation and connection.”
About 20 council leaders met Saturday morning for breakfast. In his introductory remarks, James said there is no formal age cutoff for the group, which welcomes both staff and other elected leaders of mid councils who consider themselves to be “youngish.”
“We have had numerous conversations with a number of colleagues throughout the country who have been thirsty for this type of unofficial, yet structured, conversation, in which we can grapple with the issues in front of us on a very contextualized and individual manner,” Veldhuisen added. “We also know the high burnout rate that can quickly come of this work, so we have also geared this as a very safe and supportive environment in which our number one goal is to make people feel welcome and not alone.”
The event also was attended by staff members from the Office of the General Assembly — including Tricia Dykers Koenig, Associate Director for Mid Council Relations — and the Presbyterian Foundation, which sponsored the event.
“Andy (James) gave me a call and asked if the Presbyterian Foundation would be interested in sponsoring their breakfast,” said Rob Bullock, Vice President, Marketing & Communications for the Presbyterian Foundation. “Since I work with mid councils, it made perfect sense for us to be here and support these creative presbytery leaders. Recently we’ve been trying to put together a full-fledged team of experts in all things financial — fundraising, stewardship, investments, real estate — chances are, if you or one of your congregations has a question, we have someone in the office who can help.”