Presbyterian Teens Converge Amid Youth Fallout

The Presbyterian Youth Triennium kicked off Tuesday with nearly 4,200 high school students and volunteers from throughout the United States and Canada.

Thousands of young people have converged at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., for a weeklong conference under the theme "Hope is in our Midst."

The conference for teens and college students is an effort of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the nation; Cumberland Presbyterian Church; and Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, the first African American denomination to embrace Presbyterianism in the reformed tradition.

The Presbyterian Youth Triennium comes as baptisms of young people are declining in the PC(USA). A 2006 church report showed that baptisms among children have gone down from 35,237 in 2003 to 30,493 in 2006 among children and 10,174 to 8,297 among adults. And in 2001, the percentage of ministers under the age of 40 made up less than 10 percent of the entire PC(USA). The percentage was much lower for other mainline denomination such as the United Methodist Church in which a 2005 report showed that less than 5 percent of the church's leadership were ages 35 or under.

The loss of youth in the churches and leadership positions in mainline bodies have prompted some to launch new efforts such as UMC's Igniting Youth ministry, aimed at welcoming teen seekers into the church, to draw more youth both to the pews and on a path toward the pulpit.

Presbyterian youth kicked off their triennium shortly after their United Methodist peers concluded the denomination's Youth 2007 event this past Sunday.

Up until this coming Sunday, teens at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium will engage in worship, recreation, Bible study and aiding children living in disaster devastated areas. In partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for Project H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Everywhere), this year's triennium will urge teens to put together a complete school kit to mail to those in need.

The first Presbyterian Youth Triennium was held in 1980 on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. In 1983 it moved to Purdue, where it has resided ever since.