I’ve been sitting in a meeting of Young People in the United Methodist Church. One of the greatest concerns I keep hearing from the people is the need for more money and resources. Secondly I hear from them that they want to be given leadership in the church. I maybe misquoting a bit, but, of course, each person says it differently. I feel as though these students and young people are waiting for something to happen.
Even during the meetings through which I sat the students would ask permission about everything. I think about groups that have wanted to have leadership in the past. Women never asked permission to have a division of their own in the church, but when given boundaries and limits they pressed against them.
Young people in the church have spent a lot of time in the last two decades or so talking about issues and talking about being leaders and talking about being the church of today, not just of tomorrow… Young people need to stop waiting for something to happen and stop expecting entitlement. When I say this, I mean myself, too, of course.
How do we make something happen? Well, money isn’t the answer at all. When we look at the history of the church, young people empowered themselves most when they were an unfunded group. The disciples with Jesus didn’t have major funding sources. Young people who are exponentially growing the church in South and Central America are not doing so with the help of the mainline or Catholic church with money, they are a pentecostal movement without a structure or money.
Right now the church gives young people just enough space to feel that they are opposing the church’s current structure and aiming for change, but at the same time the church is training us young people in the ways of the institution. I want us to think radically about what church means beyond convocations or church worship or even walls of a church building but to join with other young voices shouting for a new kind of church experience with radical expressions of love and abundant freedom to commit to “Kingdom of God works” as Jürgen Moltmann would say.
Title Photo: Some goofing around between session of the DMYP (Division on Ministry with Young People). By Scott Carnes, 2009