|Youth, young adults are church of today, not tomorrow|
Christopher Dorr plays the drum during a Sept. 25
worship service at the joint gathering of the Division on Ministries
with Young People and the United Methodist Board of Discipleship meeting
in Nashville, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Linda Green.
By Linda Green*
Oct. 7, 2008 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
Young people want to send a message to United Methodists: They are not the church of tomorrow but are the church today.
Youth and young adults decry the “youth are the church of tomorrow”
mantra because they say that it gives adults permission to discount
Christopher Dorr, a 20-year-old member of the denomination’s Division on
Ministries with Young People, said that while youth and young people
are helping to lead the future of the church, they often get only token
roles on decision-making boards and committees. “They are there for
representation,” he explained. “Young people should be able to say,
‘this is what we are doing and this is what you are doing,’ and ask how
we can make it work together.”
Dorr, the worship leader at Faith United Methodist Church, Clay, Ala.,
has struggled with having a place in the denomination “where I could
plug in.” His biggest issue with the denomination is the “gap” he sees
between children, youth and adults. People are big on children, but
sometimes youth are excluded or forgotten, and ministries for young
adults are often limited.
“Youth and young adults are in church and working in church today,” he said. “We are not going to be quiet anymore.”
He is thankful that the church created the Division on Ministries with
Young People four years ago to allow the voices and passion of youth and
young people to be heard. The division’s governing directors consist of
50 youth and young adults, ages 12-20, from around the world.
“We are not to be forgotten. We have just as strong a voice as anyone
else, and we have nothing to stop us from going after everything we
want,” Dorr said.
‘Not just the U.S. way’
Violet Mango, 21, a native Zimbabwean, was a member of the division’s
inaugural leadership. “Young people are active and bring new ideas to
the church. It is not just about the U.S. way of doing things,” she
Mango, a freshman at United Methodist-related Rust College, Holly
Springs, Miss., said the division spent time laying its groundwork,
learning about the church and the role of youth and young adults in it.
The Division on Ministries with Young People is moving into an
operational mode after spending the last four years finding its footing,
said the Rev. Mike Ratliff, the division’s director. Traditionally,
staff and board members are two separate entities within church bodies.
In the new division, “we, staff and board members are partners in
ministry together,” he said.
The division is the only entity focusing on youth and young adult
ministry throughout the connection and calling the church into
accountability “The division enables us to call the worldwide church to
action,” Dorr said. “We are a bunch of loud, passionate people who are
on fire for Christ.”
Ratliff noted the church often looks to youth and young people as
“saviors” of the future church. “Sometimes the church looks to young
people to perpetuate the church,” he said. The reality is that the
church will continue to emerge as long as all hear God’s call to
transformation, he said.
“Young people are passionate about their faith, and I believe that there
are young people who are leaders among us today who are prophets among
us today,” he said. “Young people will grow into the leaders they are
created to be.”
The United Methodist Church is focusing its direction on leadership
development, church growth, global health and poverty, and Ratliff said
the division is collaborating with others to help youth respond to God’s
call on their lives in relation to the church’s direction.
Focus on leadership
Leadership development among youth and young adults has been a
primary focus for the division in 2008. The organization launched the
“Source,” a gathering resourcing adult workers with youths to help
empower youth and young adults to be leaders in their immediate
contexts. The leadership resource for adult workers is at the heart of
The quadrennial gathering focusing on faith and leadership typically
draws more than 6,000 young people. It will occur in two locations in
2011: July 13-17 at Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind., and July 27-31
at the convention center in Sacramento, Calif.
Accessibility is the reason for two events rather than one. Each
location is now a day’s drive for anyone in the country and, with the
U.S. economic woes and high gas prices, “it makes sense that we are
helping people not spend as much to get there,” Ratliff explained.
Another development activity called “pilgrimages” will occur over the
next four years. The pilgrimages will bring together youth, young adults
and adult workers from different parts of the globe to experience
another part of the world and relate the experience to what it means to
be both a disciple of Christ and in ministry in their local settings.
“It builds relationships and also develops leadership,” he said.
The division will conduct its second global young people’s convocation
July 21-26, 2010 in Berlin. The gathering celebrates the vitality of
young people in the church and provides opportunities for the creation
of legislation that will help the denomination face the global realities
of youth and young adults.
Importance of collaboration
The importance of collaboration will be emphasized as the division
works with the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry
to recruit three people for the division who will focus on leadership
development in youth, college students and young adults, specifically
with minorities and women. “This project will identify young adult
leaders in the church today and continue to develop them as they grow
into the future,” Ratliff said.
The division also plans to help alleviate poverty locally and globally
by establishing a microenterprise or similar program in the next four
years. The division will work with United Methodist businesspeople to
develop opportunities for young people to be in sustainable business for
themselves and to move out of poverty.
Through its grants, the division already assists youth involvement in
social justice projects. It granted $100,000 to 13 global projects that
benefit youth and young adults for 2009. The division also awarded
$98,500 from the youth service fund to 18 global ministries with youth.
In an effort to advance the voices of youth and young adults outside the
United States, Ratliff envisions creating staff positions in the
denomination’s central conferences.
Mango said that while technology is important in advancing
communications, the division must not let go of print media to inform
and hear from those outside the United States. “Communication is very
important because a lot of people in my central conference do not have
access to the Internet,” she explained. “I want to see us inform others
by print, too.”
Like her U.S. counterparts who attend jurisdictional youth gatherings
and events, Mango said she would like to have similar events organized
in the Africa Central Conference where youth and young people can come
together for leadership development.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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