I found the clinic on discipleship from Glenn McDonald, founding pastor of Zionsville Presbyterian Church, quite powerful. Stay tuned for a more thorough blog post from Chip Low, one of my Hudson River Presbytery companions at the event. Not only did he emphasize the importance of intentional mentoring relationships in the Body of Christ to support/nurture the faith growth of individual disciples, he provided a biblically grounded - and very useful - 12-step guide to help congregations implement this discipleship strategy.
This was reinforced by a discussion of youth ministry led by Gina Yeager-Buckley, of the PCUSA Youth Ministries Office, which emphasized accompaniment as powerful model of youth ministry. She - like many of us - were brought up in the heyday of youth ministry. However, like much of our culture, things are different these days. Youth are pulled in so many directions, and we were invited to consider how we accompany them on their faith intentionally and individually, even as we can’t always be with them physically.
Like Alex Lever, another one of my traveling companions, I was very impressed with Doug Pagitt's put theoretical framework on historical epochs and how they formed both worldview and expectations. It helped to recognize my own worldview seeped in the values of the present creative/connectional era. It also reminded me of our challenge as leaders to engage in a meaningful way people who were formed by the worldviews of different epochs.
As I reflect on this new sense of energy and focus, I realize that my challenge as pastor – and our challenge as leaders in this presbytery – is to find ways to best support the individual faith journeys of our members and those who worship with us. As Pastor - Teaching Elder - I have been privileged to journey with several members of our congregation and witness – first hand – how God is at work in their lives. It is an awesome and humbling honor. The challenge is for our congregation to develop an organizational capacity for this discipleship accompaniment that extends beyond the limits of the pastor.
We have a small handful of individuals that initiate supportive and Christ-focused relationships in our congregation, but for the vast majority of us – myself included – this is a new way of understanding who we are and what we are about. While investing in individual relationships might sound like a significant challenge, the fruits can be amazing… for all parties. And, as I’ve found, we don’t need to have all the answers. What is required is a commitment to journey with someone and a trust that God will move through that relationship.
May it be so!
Ben Larson Wolbrink