Youth in Synod

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Besides praying for delegates and advisors, what role can youth play in Synod 2011? Are there opportunities to serve as non-voting advisors or observers or to assist with technical (audio/visual) needs?

Presenting opportunities to youth in this area recognizes the multigenerational nature of the church (while also recognizing and respecting the authority, experience, and wisdom of elder members) by giving youth an opportunity to understand ecclesiastical functions of the church, and perhaps to serve members of the synod in areas such as tech. Any thoughts or opportunities?

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Participant

Scott, I'm glad for your interest!  Synod does in fact have young adult advisors, which are chosen in February/March by the Board of Trustees.  The program began at Synod 2009 with youth observers and is open to young adults ages 18-26; Synod 2010 formally approved an "status upgrade" from observer to advisor, so these young adults now have privilege of the floor during synodical debates.  Each young adult also serves on one or more synodical committee and fully participate in those discussions.  In the past they have also had the opportunity to participate in leading synodical worship.

I was blessed to serve in this capacity during Synod 2009 and Synod 2010, and it was a wonderful time of growing and learning about our denomination.  In fact, the Synod 2010 young adult advisors were so impacted by the experience that they developed a proposal for a Young Adult Summit that would introduce more young adults to a Synod-style time of discussion and leadership development.  After further development, our revised proposal will be coming before synod this year (see BOT Appendix B in the 2011 Agenda for Synod).

In you're interested in additional reading about the role of young adults in the CRCNA, I encourage to read a manifesto developed by over 30 young adults in August 2010, laying out their vision for the denomination and their participation in it.

I'm really excited about Synod's desire to include young people in the discussion process - having them as advisors this year is such a huge development.  
I'm wondering if anyone knows how the BOT selects the youth advisors.  I would love to experience a Synod sometime in my seminary career...

Participant

The BOT solicits recommendations from a variety of sources, including the affiliated colleges.  They also try to have a mix of new and repeat advisors every year; the general age range for advisors is 18-26.  In my experience, the BOT usually selects nominees at their March meeting.

I remember when age and experience were what was wanted at Synod....

I wonder, this fascination with what is young and new, this participation in the cultural adoration of youth - at what point does it cross the 5th commandment?

I realize that's an impertinent question in this particular context, but I figured the youth might appreciate a bit of impertinence from an old f&rt.

Oh, yes.  I am aware of Paul's charge to Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he is young.  I'm also aware that, in the case of Jacob and Esau, the elder served the y ounger.  Joseph also was not the eldest of Jacob's sons.  But I know, too, that wisdom is more often than not bedecked with the hoary frost of years and hard experience.

Participant

Rather than an issue of not wanting the wisdom that comes from experience, I think it's an issue of wanting diverse experience and the wisdom that comes from multiple viewpoints engaging each other and probing and discerning God's will together.  As a young adult I do value the experience of those who have lived longer than I have, but I also value the opportunity to question them and more deeply and personally discover how I can translate that wisdom for my life.  At the same time, I hope the questions of young adults like me can help those with more experience review and reevaluate their understandings and perhaps glean additional wisdom they would not otherwise have developed.

Amy - well said and point taken.  I do, frankly, appreciate it when the youth question and challenge me because I relish the opportunity to explain how I have come to the conclusions I hold.  I also know that the Lord can, and more often than us old folks like to think, does speak to his people through the mouths of those young men who dream dreams and those young women who prophesy.

I also think it is vital for those who lead to remember the reason for leading is to serve the led.

What I see happening, though, is the fragmentation of the church into interest groups - young, old, men, women, this race, that race, this this, that that.  It turns what is supposed to be a family into a political institutions with various factions jockeying for position.

For instance, what matters is not the perspective, the interest, the biblical knowledge, the movement of the Spirit, or their relationships within the family of God, but simply that these advisors are "youth".  Yet even on that score, they cannot legitimately be expected to speak for "youth" as a class or interest group - they were, after all, selected by the Board of Trustees, not other young people.  Since they are not truly representatives of the designated interest group, nor are they selected by their respective churches or classes where they might be known and respected, they come to Synod wholly disconnected from the family and merely as "youth". It's almost as if Synod thinks 18-year-olds are interchangeable and all think alike.

Also  implicit in this process is the assumption that elders and pastors who are delegated from the family - their respective classes - are ignorant of and unable to speak intelligibly about (or on behalf of) youth, some of whom are their own children or grandchildren.

I understand the fear that motivates the act - young people are not staying within the CRC as they graduate and move on.  How do we fix that?  Let's ask the youth!

Reasonable, as far as it goes, but at what point do we draw back from the brink?  Where is that line between an appropriate effort to address the Lord as a whole family called into his presence, consulting the perspectives and opinions of all his children, and a fragmentation that denies the respect and honor due those who have gone before?

I'm not sure where that line is, but the rationale advanced officially for having youth advisors at Synod, and then for giving them voting privileges or the privilege of the floor, causes me to wonder if perhaps we may have crossed it.