‘Networking’ may sound like a codeword for free food and awkward small talk, but for Presbyterian youth leaders across the state, it has a much richer meaning.
Leaders of youth ministries at various Presbyterian Churches regularly meet together in an initiative facilitated by PYNSW called ‘PY Encourage’, to be equipped in their ministry, build relationships with leaders from other churches, and commit their plans and people to God.
The most recent PY Encourage Express, held last month, brought together leaders from eight different churches across Sydney — from the Chinese Presbyterian Church, to Cornerstone Willoughby — to be encouraged in their service and equipped for better leading of their people.
Josh Lum Mow, Assistant Minister at Beecroft Presbyterian Church, led the evening’s training, reminding leaders that while contexts may change and leaders gain new skills, the core of their work remains the same: to present young people with the Christian gospel and to encourage them to live lives accordingly.
Leaders were also given in-depth resources from Josh’s own experience of leading youth groups, leaving with practical applications to better serve their young people. The evening ended with time to pray together for youth groups and young people across Sydney.
The real support — in both prayers and resources —provided between churches at events like this is what church networks should be all about, says Andrew Sylvester, Youth Minister at Chatswood Presbyterian Church.
“We look at the New Testament church and see that they seem to set up elders in the towns, but [different churches] also seem to be working together at the same time,” he explains. “The elders in the church are seeking to … coordinate, to make sure that we’re all on the same track, and we’re looking after the right people the right way.”
For Andrew, events like these are a no-brainer.
“At a denominational level, the elders from all of the churches in the area meet up a few times a year,” he says. “But we don’t always have the same thing within youth ministries.”
Gathering leaders who experience similar challenges and joys in ministry is a deeply enriching experience, especially considering the many things that all youth ministries hold in common. Regardless of where you are, students are asking similar (though, by no means identical) questions and dealing with similar issues.
Chatswood has over 40 youth involved in their ministry, which is very encouraging – but they have struggled to recruit enough new leaders to allow them to sustain their growth. Andrew says that his leadership team is mostly people in their mid-late twenties, with some leaders even older, and they don’t always have the same time available to commit to ministry as more typical university student-aged youth leaders may.
While this can be difficult, “I don’t know how unique any of our challenges are,” Andrew admits. “Many of these challenges we’ve faced for many years, and I think the Bible speaks so clearly into them because they are part of our human condition.”
That’s why events like PY Encourage Express are such good events. As Andrew explains, “We’re all facing similar challenges, but we just see them from different angles and have had a different approach to them. And sometimes that can be quite refreshing: to try something new and to listen to what other people have done.”
The similarity across churches also means that it’s not necessary to constantly reinvent the youth group wheel: there’s already a huge amount of resources, wisdom and experiences all around us.
“We can and should be sharing this with each other,” Josh says. “PY Encourage Express is one way we’re able to see that happen.”
Andrew highly recommends that other youth ministers come along to PY Encourage Express, and bring their leadership teams. “Not only can you be challenged and stretched to think in new and different ways, but you can also challenge and help others to grow in their ministry as well.”
Future PYEE Events
PYEE Term 2 – Como Community Church (11/5/21)
PYEE Term 3 – Ashfield Presbyterian Church (3/8/21)
PYEE Term 4 – Blacktown East Presbyterian Church (26/10/21)
Future PY Encourage (regional) Events
PY Encourage Hunter – Wallsend Presbyterian Church (23/10/21)
PY Encourage Bathurst – Bathurst Presbyterian Church (6/11/21)