The Reverend Kristen Levens, age 29, is the first of 25 ministers to benefit from Pathways to Renewal. The program is designed to help bring ministers younger than 40 into Pastor’s Participation of the Benefits Plan at substantially reduced dues.
“I have one of the best jobs in the world!” she said of her first call, which began August 1, 2018. Rev. Levens is Associate Pastor for Youth and Missions at Grace Presbyterian Church, a 500-member congregation in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
Grace called Rev. Levens straight out of seminary. She graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with two degrees — a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Christian education and formation. She had held youth and campus ministry positions in North Carolina while discerning her call to ministry.
Pathways to Renewal cut the dues for Rev. Levens’ position “nearly in half.”
— Rev. Sandy Hull
“Session acknowledged feeling some anxiety about creating the position but said when they heard about Pathways, they felt as though they were being led … that God was saying this is the right decision,” Rev. Levens said.
Grace’s pastor, the Reverend Dr. Sanford “Sandy” Hull, characterized Pathways to Renewal as “an unanticipated blessing.” The program cut the dues for Rev. Levens’ position “nearly in half,” he said.
He also feels the timing was fortuitous. “We wanted to delve more deeply into youth ministry. We created the Associate Pastor for Youth and Missions position hoping to find someone with a strong theological foundation and a sense of call,” Rev. Hull said. “Kristen has a heart for young people, for mission, and for God.”
Under session and Rev. Hull’s leadership, Grace Presbyterian Church is taking on big initiatives. In addition to expanding the pastoral staff, it just completed a significant building renovation.
By next year, the church will have four mission trips, according to Rev. Levens. Two of the trips will be for youth, including a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, to work on homelessness and poverty, and the other to the Mission@Massanetta program at Massanetta Springs, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Another trip will be for young and college-age adults, and the fourth will be an intergenerational trip for adults to provide hurricane relief.
Grace’s active commitment to its youth and to those outside its walls only adds to Rev. Levens’ enthusiasm for her job. “It’s an exciting time to here,” she said. “This congregation wants to be leaders in the community and to live their faith. This is a time, in the Church and in the world, to do.”
"The Pathways program is a gift from God,” said Rev. Hull. “We are very grateful for the opportunity it provides.”
Pathways to Renewal brings young ministers into the Benefits Plan with the full benefits of Pastor’s Participation at substantially reduced dues. It is designed to provide hope of renewed leadership to small congregations and support to innovative ministries.
A dues reduction through Pathways to Renewal made it possible for First Presbyterian Church of Richardson, Texas, to hire a new associate pastor.