As part of its strategy to enable and resource leadership within the church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) recently announced its 2017 Young Clergy Initiative (YCI) grants with $7 million designated for use in the current quadrennium (2017-2020).
|The Florida Conference's Young Adult Missional Movement (YAMM) matches young adults to various agencies and ministries. Included are homeless shelters, food banks, after-school programs and churches.|
First awarded in 2012, the grants support programs geared toward increasing the number of young clergy in The United Methodist Church. Rev. Trip Lowery, director of Young Adult Ministry Discernment and Enlistment at GBHEM, says, “There is an obvious passion for this work and a focused interest in helping youth and young adults discern whether their call is to vocational ministry.”
One of this year’s recipients from the Florida Conference is the Young Adult Missional Movement, or YAMM, which will receive $100,000 over 3.5 years.
“YAMM is our umbrella for young adults in mission service,” said Program Director Heidi Aspinwall. “Currently we have summer, one-year and two-year terms of service, all of which young adults serve in missions throughout the state in positions which outreach to local communities,” she said.
YAMM participants differ greatly when it comes to education and interests.
“One of the things we focused our grant application on is that we are so diverse,” Aspinwall said. “It’s a very diverse program in terms of the young adults’ educational and economic backgrounds. We have some folks who have master’s degrees, while others haven’t even finished their associate’s. The program helps them discern where God is calling them and what kind of education they need to fulfill that calling.”
YAMM matches young adults to various agencies and ministries, including homeless shelters, food banks, after-school programs and churches.
“The thing we focus on as a program is for caring young adults to fulfill their calling in a multicultural world,” said Aspinwall. “We need leaders who can thrive in cross-cultural settings.”
In exchange for their service, participants live together receiving free housing and utilities. They get an allowance for groceries and transportation, along with $330 per month spending money.
Last year, YAMM had 22 young adults living in six houses located in Jacksonville, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Belle Glade, Naples and Miami. This coming fall the goal is to have 30 people in eight houses. The program holds three retreats each year so everyone in YAMM can meet and share their stories.
“The program gets young adults to think about vocations and what careers they’re going to pursue and the retreats are really important to that,” Aspinwall explained, adding that being surrounded by pastors and missionaries can have a strong influence on YAMM participants.
One of these retreats was in Tallahassee during Florida Advocacy Days, and YAMM lobbied three pieces of legislation to Florida state senators, leading some of the young adults to gain an interest in community organizing, advocacy and law. At other times, when the groups have gone to camp, some young adults were inspired to be camp directors.
“YAMM helps young adults explore various career avenues,” Aspinwall offered. “It’s almost like an apprenticeship. You learn what you want to do…or do not want to do with your life.”
One example of the program’s success can be found in the path of YAMM participant Sarah Howell. She served her first year in Orlando and realized she wanted to pursue vocational ministry as a deacon. She served one more year in Miami and has now entered seminary.
Another success is Lynda Sylvain. After serving one year in the Belle Glade community, she is being commissioned as a Global Mission Fellow. She'll be assigned to Detroit for a two-year service as a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries.
“The YAMM program is three years old,” Aspinwall said, “but I joke that it’s in pilot year No. 4 because we want to make changes every year to improve it until it’s perfect. The YCI grant will give us funding to keep doing just that.”
--Jessica Chapman is a freelance writer based in Lakeland.
Editor’s Note: This year’s Young Clergy Initiative grant announcement also included a $20,000 award to the College Connection retreat, which is held annually at Fruitland Park. For a story about the program, click here.