Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Commentary: Seven reasons youth should participate at Annual Conference

By Audrey Wilder, Director of Young People's Ministry, SUSUMC

When you look over those gathered for worship in your congregation, who do you see? When you look over those gathered for Annual Conference, who do you see? Who do you wish were there? I wish there were more youth in every congregation and at every Annual Conference. They are desperately missing. Here are seven reasons why I think it’s so important for youth to participate at Annual Conference.

7. Profound questions
Youth ask us hard questions. Youth ask us offensive questions. They don’t mean to make us uncomfortable, they are genuinely wanting to understand “WHY!?”. We need to be asked the hard questions. Hard questions open us up to the movement of the Holy Spirit. As we answer hard questions, we learn more about who we are and who God is calling us to be.

6. Investment 
Ownership is key to prolonged investment. Basically, the more youth feel they have a stake in the goings on of the United Methodist Church, the more likely they will be to stick around. Providing an avenue for youth to become owners of the church, rather than consumers, fosters discipleship.

5. We learn best from experience
Youth need to sit beside seasoned Annual Conference veterans to learn why we appoint pastors, how to have holy conversation, what it means to be connected beyond the local church, and how to transform the world. Understanding how the church works cannot be explained in a book or confirmation class. A live-action film is much better. If you truly want these young people to become pastors of your church some day, they need to know how that happens.

4. They are members
We baptized these children into the body of Christ and confirmed them into the full life of the congregation. They have just as much responsibility for the ministries of the church, and therefore the conference, as anyone else in any congregation. Our table is not complete until we have youth seated beside us.

3. Interesting perspectives
Teens offer a different perspective on the world. Their understanding of what it means to be a Christian in the world today and what the church looks like to the world today are two lenses through which we need to gaze.

2. They are fun!
Youth make Annual Conference more fun! From delicious smelling popcorn, to “selfies” with the bishop, to mad dance skills, having youth present gives us all a break from the serious business at hand.

1. Decisions impact them MOST!
The decisions made at Annual Conference will have a lasting impact on the United Methodist Church for decades to come. Youth in their teens now are our sisters and brothers who will be most profoundly influenced by these decisions. It stands to reason that they should be a primary voice in votes cast, legislation passed, and representatives elected. If you know a youth whose voice needs to be heard and whose vote needs to be counted, there’s still time for them to become lay members-at-large for your district. Please contact your district office before February 27 with the name, address, email address, phone number, district, church/charge, and name of the youth you would like to be at Annual Conference.

Next charge conference, please have a conversation about sending a youth to Annual Conference as your church/charge representative.

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