While many are avoiding public gatherings this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eastern PA Conference and its churches are making ample use of Zoom video-conferencing for meetings, worship, education and special events. And the Conference’s Youth Ministries program is doing its share.
The Rev. David Piltz, Coordinator, has hosted two virtual learning and fellowship events in two months—one for youth and the other for adult youth ministers. While young participants sorely missed the social contact of an extended onsite gathering, they nonetheless appreciated the interaction, learning and good attendance they experienced in their brief time together.
Piltz and his team—including youth ministers Michael Gold and Jezerel Gutierrez—helped the Conference Council on Youth Ministry plan and cohost a virtual youth rally with guest speakers and music August 21-22. With the theme “Perfect Vision 2020,” based on 2 Corinthians 5:7, the rally drew about 80 attendees, mostly youth, on Friday, from 8 to 9:30 PM, and Saturday, from 3 to 4:30 PM. Organizers said that attendance may have surpassed what an onsite event would have drawn.
They heard compassionate wisdom and candid witnessing about the gifts and guidance provided by one’s faith from dynamic Christian speakers and musicians in plenary and breakout group discussions. Topics ranged from self-esteem and relationships, to connecting with and relying on God and on one another, to the power that emerges from prayer and focusing on our faith in challenging times.
Much of the talk also focused on timely learning about the challenges and changes that can come with multicultural diversity, and also the causes and effects of systemic racism in our society. As usual, the youth planned and evaluated sessions and took turns emceeing the program.
“Our youth get opportunities to lead and use their unique gifts, while following the call of Christ in their lives,” explained Piltz. “They know that faith is about knowing that God is always going to be there, no matter how dark things can get. We can all learn something from the youth and how they practice their faith in their lives.”
Christian rock band Behold the Beloved performed in-between brief but meaningful and engaging presentations by:
- Jen Gotzon and Jim Chandler, Christian Actors with a new movie, “The Farmer and the Belle,” due out in November;
- Lee Woodall, a life coach and retired pro football player;
- Egypt Speaks, a popular spoken-word author and performer; and
- Sean Green Behold the Beloved’s lead singer.
Each presenter provided insight into how to live and walk confidently in this world by faith.
Woodall and Egypt Speaks also spoke to an earlier gathering organized by Piltz for adult youth ministry leaders, July 25. Leading Racial Reconciliation for Youth Leaders was an “experiential workshop” designed to help youth ministers and other church leaders engage with young people in “intentional conversations” on challenging and undoing racism—both explicit and implicit.
The facilitators also included Keynan Williams, a worship director and pastor to young adults at a youthful, multi-ethnic church. Individually, they explained foundations of racial reconciliation and how to effectively implement it in youth and young adult groups and church settings. The goals were to help youth leaders define cultural and generational trauma, find ways to engage youth and adults in controversial conversations, establish empathic listening and response techniques for emotional healing, understand reconciliation from a theological perspective, and create action plans for planting racial reconciliation seeds in their various church contexts.
Piltz, who is a pastor, a marriage and family therapist, and a campus minister at Drexel University, wants to have more learning and sharing events for youth ministers and leaders but also more gatherings—online and onsite—for youth. Moreover, CCYM needs and is always looking for new youth members and adult guides and leaders, said Piltz, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-883-0118.