At First Presbyterian Church of Neenah ― in Winnebago Presbytery ― a unique form of ministry with young adults has evolved.
As is the case in many congregations, some members who would be potential additions to the choir find it difficult to commit to weekly rehearsals and Sunday worship. So, the congregation invited music students from nearby Lawrence University to join.
Their regular presence was intended to enhance the choir and give leadership to the sections in which they sing. The church pays each of the students a stipend.
However, what began as payment for service was soon recognized very differently. Having students participate in the worship life of the church provides them with a meaningful experience of a mainline Presbyterian congregation.
They learn how church choirs work, what it means to observe the liturgical year, and how preaching and worship revolve around the cycle of lectionary readings.
First Presbyterian is also a place where students are spiritually nurtured. The young people have often spoken to the pastors and others regarding how much participation at the church means to them.
As a direct result of her singing at the church, one young woman asked to be baptized and subsequently joined another Presbyterian congregation, where she became children’s handbell and vocal choir director.
Presently, the Neenah church regularly supports up to 10 students. So, while the congregation benefits significantly from the participation of the students in its music program, the students benefit from the income, the spiritual nurture, and the wonderful learning opportunity the church provides.
The Presbytery of Winnebago is home to 6,115 members of 33 congregations.
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