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Task force connects with youth and young adults

Education Ministries Committee's responsibilities
are divided into four task forces.

The Education Ministries’ Youth and Young Adult Task Force’s eight Western Washington members are optimistic about the future as they plan events to listen to what is and is not working for youth and young adult workers and volunteers. 

Young Adults
Kevin Peterson, Marc Gall and Emily Hanson Gall at a recent young adult gathering.

Half of the eight are 18 to their mid 30s and half are 40s to early 50s. 

“In 2010, the Ministry Resources Committee decided the Education Ministries Committee would work better if it was divided into four task forces,” said Cory Maclay, convener of the Youth and Young Adult Task Force. 

The other task forces are Christian Education, Adult Spiritual Formation and Outdoor Ministries. 

In two October meetings and one in January, we have looked for ways to build on what is working well.  We realize building relationships among those in youth and young adult ministries is vital.”

One goal is to incorporate more youth and young adult participation in the conference, particularly in the 2011 Annual Meeting.  Speaker DaVita McAllister will meet with each youth and young adult to hear what they seek from churches and the conference.  She will offer pointers for the road ahead. 

“We feel called to develop leadership in local churches and the conference among people from ages 12 to 30,” said Maclay. “As many affirm: youth and young adults are the church of today, not just tomorrow. They can be church and conference leaders today.  In fact, if we don’t develop those leaders, we will miss a few generations in conference leadership.

 “Most youth workers are volunteers or part-time staff.  We seek to support them,” asked Maclay, who was high school youth minister at Plymouth Congregational UCC in Seattle for 11 years in two stints: one for three years in the late 1980s and from 2002 to 2010.  

She remembers coming to Plymouth when she was in her mid 20s. Now more than twice that age, she still remembers what she experienced—positive and the negative—being a young person in a big church. 

Boyd and Guthrie
Mark Boyd and Robert Guthrie converse at a task force meeting.

She believes many would welcome the UCC denomination, particularly in areas where more conservative churches are the norm, said Maclay, who is taking a year off to listen to where God is calling her next. 

“When I was in high school ministry, we had a ritual of blessing seniors at the end of the year,” she said. “They were joyful but sad moments, because even our large church had no viable young adult ministry where youth could go next.  We had spent years helping them navigate life through childhood and adolescence, yet once they graduated they no longer had a small group to call home.” 

Several task force members recently attended some national training events.  Tara Barber and Margaret Irribarra, youth ministries coordinator, both of University Congregational UCC in Seattle, attended the Network of Wider Church Youth Ministries gathering for 14 UCC youth workers in November in Orlando, Fla. 

Irribarra and Kmbris Bond, also of University Congregational, attended an ecumenical Youth Workers Summit, also in Orlando, but hosted by Disney.

On Dec. 29 at Plymouth Congregational UCC in Seattle, about 25 young adults from many churches, four clergy and six young-adult allies came to a gathering. After decorating and delivering cookies to several to Plymouth Housing Group residents, decorating cards to sell at Annual Meeting and eating a meal, they conversed about what it means for UCC churches to call themselves “open and affirming” (ONA) 25 years after UCC first used the term. 

Sharing insights to spur conversation were Kyna Shilling, young adult leader at Plymouth; Amy Roon of University Congregational; Vincent Lachina, state chaplain for Planned Parenthood; Matt Smith, pastor with Progressive Christians at the University of Washington, and Tim Devine, pastor at St. Paul’s UCC in Ballard shared personal stories to open the discussion. 

They looked at what ONA meant in UCC history versus what it might mean to people, particularly young adults, today,   Maclay said they distinguish between a body voting on an ONA resolution and a church or conference living into being open and affirming. 

They explored expanding “open and affirming” to mean integrating anyone—not just those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual,  transgender community—who feels considered “other” by those of in the church.

The task force has crafted a two-year budget to support current local, conference, regional and national youth events, plus gatherings to support those who minister to and with youth and young adults. 

Rachel Teigen Brackett and Maclay met with a Global Ministries subgroup developing a young adult exchange as part of the PNC’s 17-year partnership with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, East Seoul Presbytery.  Global Ministries will host a young adult delegation in Seattle this summer and hope to send a young adult delegation in 2012. 

“To recruit young adults to go to Korea, we need provide a partial subsidy,” Maclay said, because “many young adults have made career choices that mean they have lower incomes and  would need financial help. 

“A challenge we face is that few young adults participate in churches out of loyalty to the denomination.  What does that mean for the future of our churches?” she asked. “Like most other mainline denominations, we need  to adapt to a new way of being church.

The task force incorporates faith formation in its meetings.  “While we are talking about the care and feeding of souls for youth and young adults in the conference, we are caring for and feeding our souls, too.”  

For information, call 206-841-2744 or email


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © February 2011


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