Seminary, Presbytery, Congregation Join Forces

Seminary, Presbytery, and Congregation Join Forces In Unique Outreach to Young Adults

Bridging the gap between young adults and the church is one goal of a ground-breaking program being developed by Union Presbyterian Seminary, the Presbytery of the James, and Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia.

The three Richmond-based entities are joining forces to create a learning center that will give seminary graduates and students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in organizing nontraditional worshiping communities of young adults (ages 18-35) in an urban and college campus setting. The project dovetails with an initiative of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to create 1,001 new worshiping communities over the next 10 years.

“This partnership between a seminary, a presbytery, and a local church is a wonderful sharing of God's resources in a transformational way,” says Brian Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary. “Together, we have the opportunity to share the faith with young people while simultaneously providing these young people and the resident who will be working with them the skills to share their faith with others.”

The learning center will be staffed by a recent graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary engaged in a two-year residency program, with assistance from Union student interns. Seminary faculty in the areas of leadership and supervised ministry will join pastors of Second Presbyterian Church in overseeing the learning center.

“This is a fantastic, visionary, and collaborative effort among Presbyterians in Richmond,” says Second Presbyterian Church pastor Alex Evans. “It has great promise and possibility for all involved.”

Recent surveys have documented the growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, often called “Nones.” A third of adults under 30 are Nones, according to the Pew Research Center. This group is the focus of the learning-center project, which builds on a vibrant campus ministry run by Union Seminary student interns at Second Presbyterian.

Over the years, the campus ministry has attracted a broad mix of young adults, including some who are not enrolled in college. Working together with these young people, leaders of the new learning center will explore various nontraditional community-building formats that will strengthen participants’ sense of belonging to Christ.

“This venture engages us together in important work that has heretofore not received adequate attention: the nurture and care of college students and young adults downtown,” Evans explains. “We are seeking both to equip leaders and to build Christian community for worship and discipleship.”

The project strengthens Union Presbyterian Seminary’s focus on equipping leaders for the church. For 202 years, the seminary has maintained a tradition of academic excellence in training pastors and educators. The current job-placement rate for Union students in their first year after graduation is 87 percent—evidence of the continuing high demand for Union graduates in the church.

The seminary is expanding its focus on leadership to meet the needs of new congregations, such as those growing out of the initiative to create 1,001 new worshiping communities.

The seminary also has begun addressing the needs of small churches that have difficulty affording full-time pastors. A new Church-Serve Scholarship helps reduce the financial burden of student debts, enabling graduates to accept calls at lower salaries.