EPC Student Ministries exists to serve those who are called by God to reach and disciple junior and senior high students through the local church and beyond. Our desire is to have an ongoing dialogue with those we serve in order to effectively support and provide for actual needs.
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EQUIP, PROVIDE, CONNECT
MISSION AND VISION
The mission of EPC Student Ministries is to support the student ministry leadership in both the local church and presbyteries to fulfill their individual calling to missional ministry.
We respond to the sending commands of Jesus by engaging the cultural context of students and connecting with them at their level of spiritual interest and moving them towards community and discipleship. The church is the primary agent of God’s missionary action. For more information on our Missional focus, please refer to the “Definition of a Missional Church and Denomination” approved by the 29th General Assembly (2009), after having received the work of the Long Range Planning Committee, the Theology Committee, and the then-Committee on Administration (now National Leadership Team).
The former Student and College Ministries Committee developed six priorities for ministry efforts:
• Focus on local churches and presbyteries (CONNECT).
• Ascertain the needs of individual youth workers, churches and presbyteries (CONNECT).
• Work responsively by providing needed support and resources to youth workers, churches and presbyteries toward the visions, goals and programs God has given them to accomplish. (PROVIDE).
• Equip local youth workers, churches and presbyteries responsively as they pursue God’s direction for their ministry. (EQUIP).
• Create an environment that inspires youth ministry leaders (staff, volunteer, full-time or part-time) to connect and collaborate based on shared goals, vision, and relationships. (CONNECT).
• Offer ongoing encouragement and prayer support (CONNECT).
The vision for denominational youth ministry began in 1985 with an action of the General Assembly. It appointed the Christian Education Committee to look into the feasibility of a national youth conference for the youth of EPC churches. Summer Jam was the first such conference and was held in 1987 with 100 students. That same year, the General Assembly birthed the Committee on Youth Ministries.
In the early 1990s, the Office of the General Assembly hired a full-time Director and part-time assistant. By 1994, the Committee on Youth Ministries and Director of Youth Ministries became the Student and Young Adult Ministries Committee and the Director of Student and Young Adult Ministries—affectionately known as SYAM.
Since its inception, EPC Student and Young Adult Ministries grew to encompass multiple conferences and short-term mission experiences, an annual youth workers’ retreat, ministry resources and training events, a denominational newsletter called The LINK, a national director, and a Committee for Student Ministries.
Precipitated by the emergence of the denomination’s first permanent Committee on College Ministries at the 25th General Assembly (June 2005), SYAM became EPC Student Ministries (EPCSM). With the College Ministries Committee taking the lead in ministry to post-high school students in the EPC, it didn’t make sense to SYAM to keep its name (with its reference to “Young Adults”).
In 2009, the 29th General Assembly approved a document entitled Definition of a Missional Church and Denomination. A missional paradigm focuses on the local church, “where the action is,” and thereby requires a “bottom-up” orientation. Therefore, Student Ministries is shifting its focus from directing programs to instead equipping, providing resources and supporting youth leaders, churches and presbyteries as they pursue the visions, goals and mission God has given them. A Student Ministry Coordinator position was created to aide in this transition and the full-time Director and part-time Assistant positions were vacated.
Finally, in 2012 the General Assembly approved the combination of Student Ministries and College Ministries, after both committees voted to recommend changes in the Rules for Assembly to create a Student and College Ministries (SCM) Committee with a requirement that at least three-members of the twelve member committee represent College Ministries. Rationale for the recommendation resulted from a change in the focus of College Ministries from church planting to equipping all EPC churches to foster sustainable faith in young adults. Combining efforts supported the desire of both committees to give special attention to preparing students for navigating the transitions post high school and into the work force. The SCM Committee and Student Ministry Coordinator were thereby charged to responsively serve those in youth and college/young adult ministry, within the EPC.
The 2016 General Assembly approved a proposal from the National Leadership Team that the SCM and Christian Education and Communications committees combine to form a Next Generation Ministry Council, to take effect July 1, 2017. The SCM Coordinator position was vacated when the Office of the General Assembly relocated from Livonia, Michigan, to Orlando, Florida, in the fall of 2016. At the 2017 General Assembly, the combined committees requested another year to finish their work. Ongoing discussions center on developing appropriate Next Generation Ministry vision, mission, strategy, and structures aligned with the EPC’s four strategic initiatives of global movement, church planting, church revitalization, and effective biblical leadership.