Category Archives: College Ministries

Next Generation Ministries Council hosts leadership summit for EPC ministry leaders


Collaboration, encouragement, fellowship, and worship were on the agenda for more than 30 EPC children’s ministry, student ministry, and family ministry leaders on October 6-7 in Orlando. The workers from local churches in all 14 Presbyteries met for the inaugural Next Generation Ministries Leadership Summit, hosted by the Next Generation Ministries Council (NGMC).

The focus of the two-day “think tank” was to consider best approaches for ministry to children, students, and families, as well as discuss a variety of challenges facing age-group ministry in the current cultural landscape.

Jen Burkholder

“While the good news of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the Church needs to think hard about how we can best reach and disciple the young generations of our communities with the gospel in an ever-shifting culture,” said Jen Burkholder, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Coalition for Christian Outreach and a member of the NGMC. “We cannot wait any longer to figure out how to equip them for leadership in our denomination and world.”

Among the topics that launched robust discussion among participants were practices, identity, diversity, and networking. Following a presentation on each issue, participants engaged in small group discussion to both foster dialogue and help build community among ministry peers.

Enid Flores, NGMC member and Ruling Elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, led the discussion on diversity.

“When we work with relationships, we get to know our neighbors,” she said. “When we get to know our neighbors, we get the opportunity to have discipleship. And with that, we get a deeper friendship. And at the end, we love our neighbors as He loves us.”

As each table presented highlights of their group discussion, a theme emerged of the desire for broader diversity in the church.

“We talked about how to have the conversation in our church if they don’t want to embrace diversity—even if it’s an age diversity and not a racial one,” said Blaise Shields, Pastor for Youth & Families at St. Andrew EPC in Auburn, Ind. “It makes sense to me that someone who visits the church would feel more at home if they see someone in leadership who looks like them—whatever that may look like.”

Connected to reach the world for Christ’

As part of the discussion on networking, NGMC Chairman Greg Aydt said the Council’s goal is for a stronger level of collaboration among Next Generation Ministry leaders, both within and across Presbyteries.

Greg Aydt

“We are all connected to reach the world for Christ,” said Aydt, who serves as Pastor of Youth Ministry for Advent Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn. “We have a strong belief in the wisdom of the collective—of the group. It’s Trinitiarian in a way. There’s power in that fellowship.”

He said the Council hopes to help foster creation of ministry peer networks all across the EPC.

“Our desire is that no NextGen worker is on an island. Networking has a bunch of strengths—resourcing, collaboration, mutual edification,” Aydt said. “We are thrilled to have denominational leaders who are invested in Next Generation ministry and want to see it prosper.”

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said the Council’s work to connect Next Generation Ministry leaders to each other and also the larger vision of the EPC was already bearing fruit for the Kingdom. Weaver spoke to the gathering on Wednesday afternoon via video conference.

“I have no doubt the God will continue to bless the vision and energy these leaders have for reaching young people in their communities,” Weaver said. “They are natives to the culture that the people they are trying to reach are in, so they are in a unique position that not all of us can be as effective in.”

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, noted that the passion for evangelism and outreach among the attendees “signals that both the present and the future of EPC leadership looks promising.”

“These folks are at the tip of the spear in evangelism in their churches and other ministry contexts,” Iamurri said. “Listening to these folks describe how they are reaching their students for Christ is incredibly encouraging.”

Aydt noted that “the next generation is going to reform the Church; whether or not they are formed in the likeness of Christ is up to people like those in the room.”

Dean Weaver featured speaker for Jubilee student conference


Dean Weaver

Dean Weaver, Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., and Moderator of the EPC’s 37th General Assembly, is a featured speaker for the Jubilee 2020 Conference hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). Jubilee is CCO’s annual conference designed for college students; this year’s event is February 21-23 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. The theme for Jubilee 2020 is the biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Weaver will address the topic of redemption with “The Moment that Changed Everything” at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 22.

“The conference is a life changing and transforming experience and it is exciting to be a part of engaging 4,000 college students with the gospel,” Weaver said. “It is one of the closest things on this earth to experiencing the fullness of the Kingdom of God.”

The EPC has partnered with CCO since 2007 to help local churches engage in campus ministry in their communities. Among the EPC congregations with CCO partnership college ministries are Memorial Park Presbyterian Church; Bellefield Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh; Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.; First Presbyterian Church in Orlando; and many others. In addition, CCO’s Partnership Coordinator for Western Pennsylvania, Jen Burkholder, currently serves as chair of the EPC’s Next Generation Ministries Council.

For more information on Jubilee, see

Bellefield Presbyterian Church partners with University of Pittsburgh to feed hungry students


BellefieldChurchby Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

When Pastor Josh Brown looks out of the window of his office at Bellefield Presbyterian Church, he can see eight of the dormitories on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, commonly known as Pitt.


Josh Brown

“I believe that God strategically placed us here to be a light to the college community,” he said. “In fact, even though our church is primarily made up of young professionals and families, many of them are here because someone at Bellefield invested in them when they were in college.”

So in the fall of 2014 when the university’s Dean of Students, Kathy Humphrey, approached Brown with a partnership proposal, he was eager to listen.

“The leadership at Pitt had become aware of a problem with food insecurity among their student population,” Brown said. “Many students were paying for school on their own but still living with parents, so they didn’t qualify for financial assistance.”

That left many of the university’s nearly 34,000 students choosing between paying for books and tuition or buying food—and much of the food that they could afford was lacking in nutritional value.

So Humphrey decided to set up a food pantry through PittServes, the university’s community service arm. That’s when she approached Brown and asked if they could house the pantry in Bellefield’s basement.

“At the time there wasn’t a suitable on-campus space, and retail spaces weren’t economically feasible,” explained Ciara Stehley, who serves as the Pitt Pantry Coordinator. There also was a concern that the stigma of being food insecure might keep students from coming to a location on campus.

Brown took the idea to his congregation, who welcomed the idea with open arms. Church members pitched in to clean out the basement, which was being utilized as a youth space, and Pitt Pantry officially opened during the spring 2015 semester.

At first, the pantry was stocked only with non-perishable items, but soon grew to include meat, dairy, and fresh produce. The university purchases most of the food from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, and the rest comes from charitable donations by members of the community.

Pitt Pantry is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Appointments also are available every weekday for anyone who cannot get there during its open hours. The pantry is staffed entirely by volunteers, and any Pitt student, staff, or faculty member whose income is less than 150 percent of the poverty line is eligible to shop at the pantry. As many as 80 people visit the pantry each month, which Stehley said was an increase of about 50 percent since the pantry opened in 2015.

Jason Ong, President of the Pitt Pantry Student Executive Board, says that volunteering at the pantry has opened his eyes to a hidden issue on his college campus.


University of Pittsburgh students collected donations for the Pitt Pantry at the annual “Pitt Make a Difference Day” in October.

“I have learned that food insecurity does not have one face,” he said. “Any individual could face choosing to purchase a mandatory textbook over a meal. Beyond this, I am grateful to have met such a welcoming community at the Pantry.”

Brown occasionally encounters pantry shoppers who are curious about why the church is willing to help.

“I never want anyone to feel like the food comes with strings attached,” Brown said. “When someone inquires why we are doing this, I ask them if they were hungry that morning. And when they tell me they were, I say, ‘Then we want you to have the food you need so you won’t feel that way tomorrow.’”

Students receive food from the pantry with no obligation, though Brown hopes those who participate will recognize that Bellefield is a church that cares about students.

“We post information about our services and let them know that they are always welcome,” Brown said. The church recently added a third worship service at 5:00 p.m. on Sundays with acoustic music and a relaxed, reflective format in hopes that it would be an additional draw for students.

“Our congregation has been very supportive of the pantry,” Brown said. “We want to be aware of opportunities to reach out and connect with the community and be sensitive to the Lord’s leading through the channels that He creates.”

Brown believes the Pitt Pantry is one of those channels. He and another Bellefield member serve on Pitt Pantry’s board, and several student leaders in their Cornerstone ministry for college-aged young adults serve as volunteers.

In return, the university has also reached out to Bellefield. A few weeks ago, more than 40 PittServes students showed up at the church for a day of weeding and cleaning.

The Pitt Pantry also has brought regional awareness to the issue of food insecurity and prompted other universities to begin similar programs for their students. Stehley emphasized that being able to influence others is an exciting part of her work.

“Getting to share our successes and challenges at conferences across the country and support other schools as they improve the food needs of their students is one of my favorite things about my role,” she said. “As we move toward a holistic and proactive approach to supporting our students, we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. But we realize that we have a continued responsibility to strive for creative and systems-focused solutions.”

Brown hopes that Bellefield will continue to play a significant part in helping to find those solutions. He said the partnership with Pitt has enabled them to meet the needs of their community more effectively together than either could have done individually.

“I believe it’s a blessing for those around us to see a local congregation and a large university working together like this,” Brown said. “Our hope going forward is that we can continue to find ways to partner with the university to care for students in ways that reflect the love of Christ and model an effective, collaborative partnership.”

Student mission conferences offer unique worldview experiences


High school and college-aged students—as well as their leaders—have multiple opportunities in the coming months to be encouraged, equipped, and challenged to dig deeper into the God’s Word and His heart for the nations. For more information about any of these conferences, contact Cassie Shultz, EPC World Outreach Church Liaison, at or 407-930-4314.

EPC Summer Mission Jam
June 24-29, 2019—Fremont, Calif.
July 8-13, 2019—Hamtramck, Mich.

SummerMissionJam2019Summer Mission Jam is a mission and outreach equipping conference for high school groups. Participants will work alongside EPC partner churches to minister to Muslim peoples in these two cities. Registration is $480 and includes lodging and meals (except dinner on Monday).

A minimum of 80 registered students is required by November 15 in order to host this event; students, leaders, or youth groups interested can complete a brief online survey to learn more and indicate interest in either the California or Michigan event.

December 27-31, 2018—St. Louis, Mo.

Urbana2018Held every third December, Urbana is a global mission conference that creates a sacred space for college students to learn more about missions and discern God’s call for their life. Among the speakers is the EPC’s own Beth Paz, Director of High School Ministry for First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.

Registration is $515 until November 15; $615 after that date; lodging is approximately $125 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $150 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to for details and to apply. Learn more about this potentially life-changing conference at

Cross Conference
January 2-5, 2019—Louisville, Ky.

CrossConference2019Cross Conference is a global missions conference for college students that focuses on reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Registration is $119 until November 30, and $139 until registration closes on December 18, 2018. Lodging is approximately $116 plus taxes. The EPC Next Generation Ministries Council provides a limited number of $40 scholarships to students interested in attending; go to for details and to apply. Learn more about this exciting conference at

In the short video below, David Platt, Pastor-Teacher for McLean Bible Church in McLean, Va., and former President of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, explains why Cross is not just for those who sense a personal call to serve on the mission field.

CCO Jubilee Conference available at no cost for EPC leaders


One of the EPC’s strategies for reaching and building Next Generation leaders is through its strategic partnership with Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). Through that partnership, any EPC leader may attend CCO’s 2017 Jubilee Conference at no cost for registration. Jubilee will be held February 17-19 at the Westin Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. The annual event attracts more than 3,000 attendees each year.

For more than 40 years, the Jubilee Conference has helped college students talk, learn, think, and dream about the public implications of their personal transformation. And it’s not just for those pursuing a career in ministry—Jubilee is designed for all students to help them understand how to be involved faithfully in whatever discipline they choose—both in college and the years to come.

The three-day conference normally costs approximately $300 per person. In addition to the waived registration fee, EPC leaders are offered a discounted rate at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Two meals also will be provided free of charge—Saturday lunch and Saturday dinner.

Free registration is available to any EPC pastor, elder, church or presbytery staff member, or other leader as a ministry of the EPC Student and College Ministries (SCM) Committee. One of the committee’s primary goals is to further develop EPC’s partnership with CCO to help growing numbers of EPC churches develop or improve their ministry to college students and millennials.

To register, go to the Jubilee Partners page at For more information, see the CCO website at or contact Elliott Simko, CCO Partnership Coordinator, at

EPC ministry committees discuss potential of Next Generation Council



The EPC Student and College Ministries Committee and the Christian Education and Communications Committee are holding joint meetings October 28-29 in Orlando to begin discussions about a future Next Generation Ministry Council. The 2016 General Assembly approved a proposal from the National Leadership Team that the two permanent committees combine to form the new council to take effect July 1, 2017.

Discussion centered on developing appropriate Next Generation Ministry vision, mission, strategy, and structures aligned with the strategic initiatives of the General Assembly. The strategic initiatives are global movement, church planting, church revitalization, and effective biblical leadership.

EPC-CCO: partnering for Kingdom growth


Several EPC leaders joined more than 4,000 college students and young adults at the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO)’s 2016 Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh.

Jubilee3-CCOThe EPC is moving closer to a full strategic relationship with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), a college campus ministry that has been successfully reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ for more than 40 years. Several EPC leaders attended CCO’s annual Jubilee Conference in Pittsburgh, February 19-21. More than 4,000 college students and young adults gathered at Jubilee for worship, inspiration, fellowship, and equipping “to serve Jesus Christ with their entire lives.”

Attending were Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah, Associate Executive Bill Enns, Student and College Ministries Coordinator Susan Holland, Committee on Administration member Dean Weaver, and Student and College Ministries Committee (SCM) members Elliott Simko and David DeBruler, who serves as SCM chair. In addition, Rufus Smith, Pastor of the EPC’s Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn., was the plenary speaker for the Saturday evening worship service.

The EPC General Assembly approved a partnership with CCO in 2007, but Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah notes that it was largely “on paper only.”

“We did not have many churches then,” he said. “Plus CCO was very focused in one geographic area—the Northeast U.S.—in which we had few churches. Where we are with CCO in 2016 is a testament to Susan Holland’s outstanding leadership as Coordinator of the EPC’s Student and College Ministries.”

At present, CCO is active on 116 college campuses extending from New Jersey to Indiana, with a high concentration in the greater Pittsburgh area. About 25 EPC churches in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio have ministry connections with CCO.

Vince Burens, CCO President, said CCO is ready to expand its geographic reach, but will only work in a college community in partnership with a local church. “We are a parachurch organization that does campus ministry with the local church,” he stressed. With more than 580 churches, the EPC has churches scattered across the country that could envision a partnership with CCO as a great way to reach into the college students in their community.


Susan Holland, EPC Coordinator of Student and College Ministries

“I am really excited,” Holland said. “I have prayed for a long time about how the EPC can better reach college students across the country, and CCO has been doing exactly what my vision has been. I am thrilled to be expanding our partnership.”

Jeremiah said that Holland has been “patient and persistent across the years as she has waited on the Lord’s timing for the relationship to blossom into a substantive Kingdom opportunity for both the EPC and CCO.” Simko and DeBruler have played important roles in nurturing this relationship as well, and the SCM Committee will take the lead in contacting churches that may want to pursue a partnership with CCO.

The 2015 General Assembly approved “reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ” as the focus for the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento, California. “I’m very confident the Lord will provide us some exciting success stories we can celebrate in 2017 as our churches take advantage of this Kingdom opportunity,” Jeremiah said.

Scholarships, free meal available at Urbana 15


Urbana15The EPC is offering several ways for young adults (age 17-29) to participate in Urbana 15, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s missions conference. Held every three years, more than 16,000 participants make Urbana the largest conference of its kind in the world. This year’s event is December 27-31 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Featured speakers include Francis Chan, David Platt, Evelyne Reisacher, and other noted missiologists.

For those attending, World Outreach is hosting a free meal to facilitate connections with other EPC college students and young adults. In addition, WO staff will be available to answer questions about EPC mission opportunities. For more information, contact Shawn Stewart at or 828-273-2009.

For those who would like to help a student attend, EPC Student and College Ministries has set up a fund to provide partial scholarships. For more information, see

Our hope is that all EPC young adults who have a heart for missions are able to experience this life-changing event. However, we are only able to give financial assistance if churches and individuals contribute to our scholarship fund. To help make an impact in the life of a young adult:

  1. Go to
  2. Click the “Donate Today” button
  3. Select “Student and College Ministries”
  4. Select “College Conference Scholarships”

At Urbana, participants can connect with fellow believers from around the world who have real experience working and serving in amazing places. They have seen both beauty and brokenness, and will share insights that are hard to find anywhere else. Urbana is an unmatched opportunity for young adults to discern how God may be leading them, connect with others asking the same question, and speak with some of the hundreds of attending missionaries. Hundreds of today’s missionaries and church leaders point to their Urbana experience as pivotal in their decision to serve in full or part-time ministry. For more information, go to

Help spread the word to EPC college students and young adults (age 17-29) about this unique opportunity!

College Ministries online book study “College Ministry from Scratch” begins February 9


College Ministry from ScratchThe EPC College Ministries 2015 online book study, featuring College Ministry from Scratch by Chuck Bomar, kicks off the week of February 9 and runs through the week of March 30. The study will be facilitated by Dan Weidman, longtime youth pastor, college ministry leader, senior pastor, and former EPC Student Ministries Director.

Participants will read the book in community with other leaders, and respond to weekly discussion questions on the EPC College Ministry “Sustainable Youth Ministry” Facebook group page.

Participants will read the book in community with other leaders and respond to weekly discussion questions on the EPC College Ministry “College Ministry from Scratch” Facebook group page. We will read all of Section One (Chapters 1-6) and portions of Section Two (Chapters 7-18) as selected by participants, based on the ministry needs of those in the study. 

You should take this course if you have college-age students in your church. If you’re not sure what they need or how to get something started, this is a perfect place to begin. The book focuses on church-based ministry, and is a step-by-step guide to starting from day one. You will learn how to set priorities based on the long-term needs of college-age people, as well as focus on the day-to-day aspects of ministry.                                                                                        

For more Information, click here to download the syllabus.

Student and College Ministries online book studies offer ministry helps, ideas


All EPC student and college ministry leaders, pastors, elders, and search committee members are invited to participate in two online book studies beginning in February 2015. Each study will be led by members of the Student and College Ministries Committee and last six to eight weeks. Discussion questions will be posted in a Facebook group, and conference calls will be available for further discussion and sharing of ideas in community with other EPC leaders.

Sustainable Youth Ministry:
Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It
by Mark DeVries
Facilitated by Mark Steimer and Susan Holland


In this study, we will read about and discuss practical tools and structures that youth pastors, senior pastors, and other church leaders need in order to lay a strong foundation for youth ministry so that it isn’t built on a person or the latest, greatest student ministry trend. Topics of discussion include:

  • Equipping youth pastors to build a strong volunteer team
  • Creative solutions for youth pastors
  • Road maps for navigating church politics
  • Help for senior pastors and search committees to create a realistic job description for a youth pastor
  • Tips for making wise hiring decisions

This study is valuable for youth leaders and for pastors, elders, and search committee members who make decisions concerning the direction of youth ministry in their congregation. To join the study or for more information, see the Facebook group EPC Student Ministries Book Study – Sustainable Youth Ministry


College Ministry from Scratch:
A Practical Guide to Start and Sustain a Successful College Ministry
by Chuck Bomar
Facilitated by Dan Weidman and Susan Holland


In this study, we will read and discuss simple tips and practical ideas for anyone looking to start a ministry for (and to) college-aged people in their congregation. This book is easy to digest and offers insights on several practical topics, including:

  • Laying the Foundation for a College Ministry
  • Developing a Job Description
  • Overview of College-Age Issues
  • The often intimidating task of initiating meetings with students
  • A list of questions to ask when having coffee with a student
  • Leading a small group or Sunday school class
  • Leading retreats and mission trips

Organized by topic, it is sure to help any size church begin to meet the needs of those age 18-22. To participate or for more information, join the Facebook group EPC College Ministry Book Study – College Ministry from Scratch

Equipping all EPC churches to impact college students


“Change the university and you change the world,” a popular quote by Dr. Charles Habib Malik, author of A Christian Critique of the University, may seem like a daunting task.  However, the key is to engage and transform today’s college and university culture – one student and one campus at a time.

EPC College Ministries desires to come along side every EPC congregation and its leaders to purposely impact college-aged students.  Some churches may have one student and others may have hundreds.  Other churches are near college campuses and others are not.  Therefore, the approach to ministry will also vary.

A congregation does not have to launch a major program with significant staff time commitment to have an impact on college students.  By taking a single step, your congregation will begin a journey that could have a significant impact on the spiritual life of a student and their campus.

College Ministries has developed several Models of College Ministry for a wide variety of congregations.  Click on the applicable links below for further information, available on our website.

What scenario best describes your congregation?

1. Our congregation is not located near a college or university. 

2. Our church has college students from a local college or university.

3. Our church is considering bringing on a staff person for college ministries.

4. Our church would like to partner with a campus ministry. 

5. We want to minister to our college students over the summer.

Our hope is these ideas will be useful for taking either a first step or additional steps in reaching college-aged students.  Join the conversation and share your thoughts on our Facebook page at EPC College Ministries.