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Reid Temple AME Church

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In addition to a national survey, researchers from The Confirmation Project visited congregations, using the research method of Portraiture to understand how confirmation and equivalent practices are practiced in congregations. Portraiture is a method of inquiry that shares some of the features of other qualitative research methods, such as ethnography, case study, and narrative, but it is distinctive in its blending of aesthetics and empiricism in an effort to capture the complexity, dynamics, and subtlety of human experience and organizational life. Portraiture first came to prominence in the works of Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. This Portrait is one from a gallery that can be found at

RECOMMENDED CITATION: Gladden, Shonda, “Reid Temple AME Church,” The Confirmation Project, Princeton Theological Seminary, Aug 26, 2017.



“We are creating a new paradigm; we’re creating a new thought for what youth discipleship looks like.”1


At the time of this site visit, Reid Temple AME Church is one church in two locations: Glenn Dale and Silver Spring, MD. Both cities are part of the region of the country known as the Washington Metropolitan area. This area, DC, Maryland and Virginia is also affectionately referred to as the “DMV.” A 2006 Washington Post article said that “the Washington area has the wealthiest households and most educated work force of any metropolitan area in the United States.”i  The Glenn Dale location is in the middle of a bustling residential neighborhood within Prince George’s County that is, according to the 2010 Census data, predominantly Black or African American; with 59.49% of the population identifying accordingly. The Silver Spring location is situated within a mixed-use neighborhood within Montgomery County that is, according to the 2010 Census data, only 17.22% Black or African American; 58% of the population surrounding the Silver Spring location is White.



 Given its location in the Washington Metro area, the congregation is comprised of a diverse membership that is both educated and affluent. Additionally, the pastoral leadership and ministerial staff represent some of the most charismatic and Pentecostal preachers of this generation. According to the church website, the senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Lee P. Washington has been identified as a “national spiritual leader” and “one of the top preachers in the Washington (DC) Metro area.”
In 1989, Pastor Washington led Reid Temple from its Northeast Washington, D. C., location to Lanham, Maryland. At that time, the church membership numbered only 300 worshippers. Guided by his pragmatic approach to ministry and a simple theme, “Have Faith in God,” which he received by revelation, the membership grew to over 1,500 within three years. The church later moved to a larger sanctuary and school facilities, and as it grew, Pastor Washington continued to outline a broad vision for the Reid Temple congregation based on the “Five E’s”: Evangelism, Education, Economics, Empowerment, and Expansion. By 2001, the congregation had acquired 32 acres of land in suburban Glenn Dale, Maryland. There, it built the spacious, ultra-modern sanctuary and educational worship complex that today houses most of the church’s multifaceted services, programs, and ministries.2
The congregation began worshiping in the Glenn Dale worship complex in December 2004. The Silver Spring “North” location began in the multipurpose room of the Montgomery Blair High School in 2006, however on Sunday September 12, 2010, the North location moved to its current location at 12101 Tech Road.



This site is distinctively different than the other two AME sites chosen for this project in a number of ways. The leadership is proud to acknowledge that at the core of the work they are doing with youth discipleship is the vision “to create a new paradigm.”3  In creating new paradigms, a distinctive difference is that the confirmation equivalent practice (CEP) team is “hand selected.”4  Since the team is hand selected, the structure of CEP is regimented in such a way that every team member communicates and implements the same course of instruction, engagement and discipleship model at every age/grade level.
When I came here there were maybe five to ten leaders. For The Remix5 alone there are about twenty-five leaders, but that’s just The Remix. The overall youth ministry [is comprised of] about ninety people who serve and every one of them we [have] been able to hand select. Some people we have drafted… Everybody you don’t necessarily always want, but you have to deal with who you have and you keep it moving. But [because of my hand selection process] I don’t have leaders fighting over mission, vision, how to go because everyone [has been hand selected].
 CEP with a team of selected workers sets this site apart. Another distinguishing characteristic of this site is that it is staffed by a full-time Youth Minister, the Rev. Russell St. Bernard, who has visibility and authority in the total church program as it relates to how the entire church views discipleship. Accordingly, St. Bernard’s role is not simply programming youth and children into their acceptable places in this local church until they are picked up by parents; his role is to equip his team to help shape youth and children for a lifetime of discipleship.



The means of equipping the team of adult youth workers is thorough. Non-paid staff personnel are processed through a thorough background check utilizing federal and state databases to ensure child safety. Once clearance is confirmed, staff participate in a battery of trainings to familiarize them with the process of serving on their respective teams. Team leaders are identified who then become part of a cabinet of advisors to St. Bernard. These advisor/team leaders work very closely with St. Bernard to ensure that all on the team are communicating the same message. Critical to the message is that the CEP ministry is done “with the parent” as opposed to doing ministry “for the parent.” St. Bernard explains that, using “Family Based Youth Ministry,” by Mark DeVries, as an informative foundational text, the CEP incorporates and relies upon family participation. Key to the CEP is providing parents and youth with resources at the onsite bookstores at both locations.


Students are teamed with one another based upon grade level and placed in appropriate paths of instruction. The programs offered are for Nursery school through second year of college and each grade group has a non-paid staff coordinator who works with St. Bernard to develop and/or select the curriculum (as necessary) as well as the program activities. The Nursery level is primarily curriculum based. They use Andy Stanley’s “Orange” curriculum, however they supplement it with appropriate cultural images and support “to make sure it fits [them].” The Kindergarten through fifth grade program relies more heavily on activities than curriculum. In addition to utilizing the “Orange” curriculum, they plan a number of family focused outings. Sixth through twelfth grades are targeted together in what they call the “teen” grouping. It is this group that is discipled primarily through “The Remix” (worship) and “Crews” (small groups). This group CEP is also supplemented through partnerships with other local church youth groups, namely Community of Hope AME Church, Ebenezer AME Church, and New Psalmist Baptist Church.


Others can learn to be innovative in practices of confirmation and confirmation equivalent practices. This congregational model of taking student success seriously and including the voices of students in the planning, programming and participation from start to finish is noteworthy. In the words of Caleb Clark, a high school student interviewed after attending The Remix, this process works because “you meet new friends and everybody knows about Jesus so it’s not like you run the risk of having a bad influence.”6 Confirmation equivalent practices done well result in students desiring to “read their bible more,” but also, as seen in this case, lead to developing “young prophets” who are focused on discipleship, making more Christians and telling others more about Jesus. Others can also learn that ministry models are not always ministry patterns for replication, however in the case of Reid Temple, both locations have found godly success in developing a model in house and then replicating it accordingly utilizing dedicated team members who understand the importance of aligning with the vision.



Confirmation is discipleship development and this only happens effectively when young people are actively involved in learning, living and leading their faith.


  1.  Reid Temple Site Visit Videos. (2015). March 2015 CYLLF Site Visit interview with Rev. Russell
    St. Bernard (S. Gladden, Interviewer) (Interview Transcript).
  2.  “About Our Pastor,” Reid Temple, Glendale, Maryland,—glenn-dale.Accessed August 18, 2017.
  3.  Ibid.
  4.  Ibid.
  5.  “The Remix” is the youth lead worship service that at the time of this visit occurs twice a month to reinforce the discipleship development activities engaged through the course of the month. It is open for attendance by all students, but the targeted age range is junior and senior high students. It is well attended, with an average attendance of 1,000 youth at each service.
  6. Reid Temple Site Visit Videos. (2015). March 2015 CYLLF Site Visit interview with Caleb Clark (S. Gladden, Interviewer) (Interview Transcript).
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