GC2016 — We Have a New Story to Tell

Jesus died young by today’s standards, in his early thirties.  I wonder what our church would look like today if mandatory retirement age was 33?  What if our thirty-year-olds ran the church?  Too often, we act like they lack experience and knowledge, wisdom and leadership skills.  In short, we would dismiss Jesus as being too young, were he among us today.  We listen respectfully and often patronizingly to our young adults, but do we take them seriously?  Do we trust them enough to give them more power and control in the church?  Or do we pat them on the head, tell them how much we love them, then essentially ignore them when it comes to running the church?

Our young people’s address at General Conference is great.  They always are.  We always applaud them and cheer them and they bring tears to our eyes.  Then we shoo them off the stage and return to business as usual.  I would love to be an observer at a General Conference with only 33-and-under aged delegates.  How different would GC be?

This is probably too scary a thought.  What chaos might be stirred up if the old guard suddenly lost power and control!  I can almost guarantee our missional priorities, our theological foundation, and our focus areas would be very different.  We “hear” the voices of the young, but do we “listen” to their hearts?  I don’t think so.  It is no wonder that so many young find no attraction or value in organized religion.  It simply isn’t organized for them.

There is a new story and a new vision for the church.  We sometimes inadvertently dismiss young people by referring to them as “the church of tomorrow.”  We forget that there will not be a church tomorrow unless we respect and acknowledge the young as the church of today.  We are an old church, with old members, and old leaders calling the shots.  Perhaps it is time for us old folks to step back into support roles and coaching relationships so that the gifted young might shine.  I, for one, would love to see it.

10 replies

  1. ‘Our’ church may be aging, but there is hope in the Hispanic/Latino/multicultural congregations. Have you followed @dreamumc? There the young voice of the church today is smart, dedicated and vibrant.

    • Thanks, Donna, Yes, I am seeing incredible movement and leadership among younger Hispanic/Latino/Latina and in many areas of the African continent. It is so exciting to see the life and vitality, and we can learn from the struggles of 1st and 2nd generation leadership “making room” for 3rd/3+ generation leaders. If U.S. mainline, white middle-class could spend more time watching our inter-cultural global growth, they might feel very different about the direction of our church!

  2. While your thoughts all sound so sweet and sentimental, I remember when I was 33 and the horrible decisions I made and what a know-it-all I was. I would not want my 33 year old self being entrusted with such an distinguished organization without the guidance of wise, mature council. Jesus was 33 but He was God, We are not, even though try and act like it. Wisdom, not knowledge, is key, and wisdom comes through experience. Maybe you should respect your elders instead of thinking ill of them.

  3. Our churches have fell to train up young people to do church or interest in church. Just count how many young people are still active in church or how many have disappeared from the church after confirmation.

    • Hi Nhia. I kind of agree with you accept as I reflect on scripture I have ;learned (and learned to late for applying to my own children) that it is not the churches responsibility as an institution to train young people up. As we learn from Deuteronomy 6: “6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

      If the church has failed the youth it is because it has failed them by not laying this responsibility at the feet of parents. We dump kids off at church (of which I was guilty of doing) and expect the church to do everything. As a church member and parent I should have been held accountable. I’m not sure how to fix it but I don’t intend to make the same mistake with my grandchildren.

  4. “I would love to be an observer at a General Conference with only 33-and-under aged delegates. How different would GC be?”

    It would not be a General Conference, but such a gathering for dialogue would significantly enhance the leadership of the participants. Is there anything done now? What could be done?

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