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.