Each year, Presbyterian Youth run Encourage Express (PYEE), four times a year; one per term in Sydney, and once per year in regional areas. It is a gathering of youth leaders where people can be trained, meet new leaders, and share strategies for doing youth ministry better.
The first event of 2023 was held in Eastwood in February where Youthworks Ministry Adviser, Chris Jones, spoke on the topic “How youth leaders can be engaging with parents”. We had a chat with Jessie Zhang on her reflections of this event.
Jessie’s reflections on PYEE
Jessie is a Youth Leader at Hurstville Presbyterian Church and grew up in a Christian family, attending Sunday School and Youth Group.
“I’ve understood the importance of teaching and guiding young people in their faith and using spaces at church as a way to really encourage them to get involved, and to know more about who Jesus is and growing in their love and faith.
Jessie attended her first PYEE in 2021 during COVID-19 lockdowns, when it was online. Since being able to attend in person, she shared that it was great to go and meet with other youth leaders. “You get to have really interactive sessions and really good conversations with people, especially in a Presbyterian context in Sydney – that can be quite special in itself”, she said.
Jessie continued, “I really enjoy Encourage Express, they have some really good topics. The last one I went to was on partnering with families, which is something that’s so important to think about as Youth Leaders, but not something that we always get the time or space to do”.
Jessie shared that they started off by digging into the Bible and looking at the biblical theology of family and how God uses families.
“It was a really helpful way to remind ourselves that as Youth Leaders we’re not actually the ones who have primary responsibility for a child’s spiritual growth… quite a humbling reminder too. Sometimes we can think that we have the sole responsibility, regardless of if it’s with children from non-Christian backgrounds or Christian backgrounds, but God has put parents into that space,” she said.
Next they went through some practical implications and tips for how this might work in practice, followed by discussion groups where they talked about how the things they’d learned could work in their own Youth Groups. They also had brainstorming sessions with other leaders about the things they’d already tried, what worked and what didn’t.
Jessie’s key takeaways
Jessie shared a few of her main takeaways from the event including running training sessions for parents, held during Youth Group.
“You’re engaging parents at the same time as Youth Group and that really helps to engage with non-Christian parents too, because all parents will struggle with things like teenage behavior, what to do with social media, how to approach dating or relationship topics, how to talk about academics, etc… Another suggestion was to have regular communication with parents, whether it’s through email, text messages, in person, or sending through newsletters each week. Also, things like getting church members on board to then reach out to any non-Christian families.”
Another thing that struck Jessie, was the responsibility that the wider church community holds to outreach to families as a collective unit.
“It’s really important to get ministers and the elders on board and to have that same vision for the church”, she said.
Jessie wants to encourage Ministry Workers and Youth Leaders to attend PYEE because she believes it is a valuable asset for Youth Leaders to meet together and discuss different ideas.
“I’m a big fan of training and all forms of reflection, being able to discuss things, even if you’ve been in youth ministry for ten years, you can still learn a lot from other people, it’s very worth it”, she said.
“It’s really great to connect as well with other Youth Leaders and other Youth Groups. We can get stuck in our own bubble very easily and meeting and talking with others can be really helpful for ministry down the track.”
Prayers for PYEE
Pray for upcoming PYEE events that are scheduled across the rest of 2023. Pray also that many Youth Leaders and Ministry Workers will be able to attend to encourage each other and look to God’s Word to further their faith and teaching ability for the students they lead.