The Youth Program of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has 4 age groupings, each with a staff person that serves it. I want to share with you one way this program has evolved in recent years.
There are 4 age categories we serve as coordinators for the Youth Program.
- There is the Children’s Religious Life Program, for kids in Kindergarten through 5th grade.
- The Middle School Friends Program, serving young people in 6th through 8th grade.
- The Young Friends Program, for high schoolers in 9th through 12th grade.
- And the Young Adult Friends Program, a group that includes Friends ages 18 to 35ish.
For some time, those categories have operated semi-autonomously, each with goals and resources at their disposal. Over the last several years, a goal for these segments has been a unification of effort and mission. We prefer to think of these services as a single Youth Program for the Yearly Meeting, a tree with 4 branches. As coordinators, we see ourselves as a Team.
Practically, this has meant eliminating some redundancy in our use of the Yearly Meeting’s Resources, and a streamlining of our logistic work. All of this has been useful in responding to PYM’s cutbacks of previous years. More importantly, this one tree- four branches thinking has allowed us to collaborate on a program that offers connection and continuity for Quaker Youth throughout their early years. We seek to smooth transitions, build a strong foundation for Quaker process, and be available to younger Friends as a unit.
This project has been extremely successful thus far, though in some ways, we’ve just begun our work. In the next few years we will examine our programs to look for ways to bridge the gap between the age categories, bringing Friends of all ages closer, literally and figuratively. We are also developing ways to structure the experience of growing up in our programs- a curriculum of sorts, though we aren’t religious educators in a traditional sense. But with a bigger picture of the tools and experiences we want our youth to have on their journeys, we can support the future of Quakerism as a whole.
-Benjamin Camp, March 6th, 2014