The recent decision by Youth Unlimited -- that nondeminational organization that oversees the development of children, young people and young adults -- to eliminate their paid Canadian youth leader developers because of financial constraints is sparking considerable discussion around water coolers and coffee pots across Canada.
It's a discussion that needs to make it to the denominational level. Which Christian Reformed body is tasked with the responsibility of providing leadership and resources for our most valued treasurers: boys, girls, young people and young adults? Aside from the significant role that Faith Alive Resources plays in providing excellent church school materials, the answer is "No one."
The denomination relinquished that responsibility a few generations ago with the formation of Youth Unlimited, a body that provides resources to many Reformed and other denominations. That relationship has served its purpose for a while.
Youth Unlimited's fiscal decision to eliminate its Canadian staff has left youth pastors, classis youth workers and other youth leaders without a valuable human resource.
Youth Unlimited also oversees GEMS and Cadets, programs that provide the very foundation for ministry for our children. Though I am not intimately familiar with their resources, questions do arise anechdotally about whether a 21st century Cadet or GEM is talking about the kinds of issues that face today's kids. For example, technology shapes the lives of most kids today. There have been recent discussions in the secular media about how today's children are exposed at an incredibly young age to sexuality, pornography, sexual orientation and fashion. That exposure comes about because of the internet, television and public school education.
What responsibility does the Christian Reformed Church have today to help our children and grandchildren deal with these kinds of issues? We have blindly relegated that responsibility to a youth ministry organization that is not accountable to the CRC.
While it would be wonderful to create a new denominational body that has these kinds of responsibilities, experience has proven that to do so would require an overture to synod, a three-year study and then the eventual creation of some sort of test model.
It is, however, quite possible to create a regional entity -- the region being Canada -- and to do so quickly. Our youth ministry leaders can't wait. They crave direction and leadership from qualified staff ... and Canada currently has a few highly qualified youth ministry leaders who are unemployed because of Youth Unlimited's decision.
It is possible to convene a Youth Ministry Summit this summer or fall designed to guage the support of Canadian classes and to subsequently create a modest Youth Ministries Canada team. I further suspect that a letter to every classis from the Director of Canadian Ministries to ask for a certain Ministry Share in order to provide made-in-Canada youth ministry resources will receive overwhelming support.
As I make the ecumenical rounds within Canada, I meet denominational leaders who are incredibly jealous of the CRC's ability to 'hold on to our young people'. It is a treasure that we ignore at our peril.