Youth ministers from around the U.S. return year after year to the Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM) for inspiration, new ideas and fellowship. They can expect that again at the 36th annual event, scheduled for January 9-12, 2023.
But this year’s gathering will also offer an expanded focus, according to Patrice A. Greer, Perkins’ new Coordinator of Youth & Young Adult Ministry Education. In a conversation with Perkins Perspective, Greer shared plans for the 2023 event as well as her long-term goals for her new position. Here are excerpts.
Tell us about the theme of this year’s PSYM?
It’s “Everyday Adventure.” It came from conversations from several youth pastors who told us, “Goodness, we’ve gone through this pandemic and our adventure has shifted.” What used to be the everyday adventure of youth ministry — going to the schools, connecting with the students, having afterschool programs, being in the brick-and-mortar churches on Sunday, connecting with parents … that all changed when the pandemic began. As students were having to do school from home, some youth pastors became not only mom and dad, but also the teacher, the lunch lady, all of these things.
Now we’re in a hybrid world. Youth pastors are again learning how to adjust: ministering to young people who connected with them online during the pandemic and at the same time ministering to the young people inside the brick-and-mortar churches. It’s uncharted territory. So, this year, PSYM will really focus on helping our youth pastors and young adult pastors hone the skills necessary to be able to thrive in this hybrid world.
You mentioned young adult pastors. Does that represent an expansion of your potential audience of PSYM participants?
Yes, it’s little bit of an expansion. We thought it was a good time to connect with young adult pastors, because they too are in that strange predicament of adjusting to the hybrid world. And there are a lot of similarities between youth and young adult programming.
Anything else that’s new at this year’s PSYM?
Our plenary speaker is Andy Root. He’s going to be amazing! He just released a book, The Church after Innovation: Questioning Our Obsession with Work, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (Baker Academic, September 2022.) He will address the state of ministry and what it takes to kind of move the pendulum in an effective yet healthy direction. Our youth and young adult pastors were in the front lines during the pandemic. That was traumatic. Some of them did not get to grieve the loss of their own loved ones. At the same time, they had to minister to the young people and their families. Andy Root is going to help us really deal with post pandemic issues, as well as how to continue in the innovation that occurred during the pandemic.
William Cumby will talk about the Portable Pulpit. That’s how to take what you do and start connecting in the community. That’s another way we are broadening our territory this year, as far as the, the speakers we’re bringing in. Not all of them are known in Methodist ministry. Will is youth pastor of The Fountain of Praise, a nondenominational church in Houston.
Shanterra McBride is leading a workshop on Courageous Discomfort. Shanterra goes around to churches and communities all around the world to create safe places for people to have conversations about race inclusion, so that everybody feels that they have a safe place where they worship.
I think it’s going to be exciting because these speakers are outside of our normal confines of Methodism.
I’m not hearing you talk about things getting “back to normal.”
I think the old normal is gone. I believe the new normal has already begun to take up residence, just as the next generation is coming into young adulthood. Before the pandemic we talked largely about the millennials. Now we’re into Gen Z. Soon it’ll be the Alpha Generation. These generations have a totally different perspective concerning life ministry. The hybrid world is where they live. It’s been their constant.
Many people return to PSYM again and again, year after year. What about the program will stay the same?
PSYM offers a healthy space that’s theologically sound and prides itself on cultivating youth pastors and young adult pastors of this era. That’s been consistent. The other thing is our structure. We’ve developed programming that’s consistent and that focuses on two particular areas: Foundations and the workshops. Foundations is largely set up for those youth pastors who are just starting out; the workshops are developed more for that seasoned youth pastor or young adult pastor who says, “Okay, I’ve been through Foundations, but I need something else.”
I would also say that care at is at the core of what we do here. For the youth pastor who’s coming out of traumatic situations, is there someone for them to be able to talk to? Is there a place where they can download for just a moment if they receive something that speaks right to their spirit in the moment? We’re always concerned about the care of the youth pastor and the young adult pastor.
Many people come to PSYM year after year. What brings them back?
I think it’s the practicality. In youth ministry, you’re constantly looking for the next best programming. You’re constantly looking to find what will speak to the young people you’re serving. When you leave PSYM and go back to your youth ministry, you can use the information you’ve learned right away.
The other piece is the consistent focus on developing healthy, God-led programming. It’s not just developing just programming for youth. It’s youth ministry, centered around the word of God. People come back year after year because what we offer is theologically sound, it’s practical, and it’s innovative.
Tell us a little bit about yourself — how you came to this position, your background, your goals.
I’m also a youth pastor at the Fort Worth campus of the Potter’s House. I’ve been doing youth ministry now for over 20 years, both in Chicago and in Dallas. That is what led me to this position. During the pandemic, as a youth pastor, I found myself asking, “Okay, what are we going to do?” I started reaching out via Zoom once a week with other youth pastors, to touch base and to check in. These Zoom gatherings began with just a few youth pastors and ultimately drew youth pastors from all over the country. We called the group “Be Sharp” because we were sharpening each other.
We collaborated once a week. People could ask questions about their needs. And we started just praying for each other. We found ways for large churches to share sound equipment and lighting equipment and other things with smaller churches that didn’t have those.
Once we became hybrid again, and people started going back into the brick-and-mortar churches, those relationships didn’t stop. From that experience, I realized that that I really love pouring into young adult and youth pastors. I love ministering to the young people, but I also found myself totally enjoying ministering to the youth pastor. I found out about this position at SMU Perkins, and it really spoke to me.
One of my goals is to broaden our sphere, to reach not just our Methodist youth pastors in the U.S. We want to bring in youth pastors all over the globe, who also want theologically sound, innovative information and a safe place to be cared for. Toward that end, we’ve begun to develop a lot of digital content. And when we have events in person, we’ll invite them to come.
Registration is now open for the 2023 Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM), a four-day educational gathering for youth ministers taking place January 9-12, 2023. This year marks the 36th year of PSYM, which will take place at Highland Park United Methodist Church, near the campus of SMU. For more information and to register, click here.