How Young Is Too Young For Council?

  66 views

I think it's safe to say that most of us have been part of a conversation about "the youth" in our church. Lately this conversation has had less to do with "how do we quiet them down" and more to do with "where are they? why are we losing them?".

These conversations tend to bemoan the fact that there are "no" youth in the church anymore - and either blame it on the church (we just aren't relevant, we need more upbeat music) or the youth (I don't know what's going on with this generation today).
 
A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend who is quite involved with youth ministry, and as our discussion weaved it's way through different topics, I began to think about deacons and youth, youth and deacons - how do these two intersect? It didn't take me too long to realize that there are many places of overlap - places where, as deacons, we will naturally lead our youth into ways of stewardship, justice and mercy. They are, of course, part of the church - and we've been charged with leading the whole of the congregation in these ways.
 
But then I got to more wondering... particularly about whether, if as a church, maybe we weren't doing enough. Then I asked myself the question: "how young is too young to be on council; to be a deacon?" We see young people do profession of faith while in their teens - but then what? Could there be a place for youth at the council table. A young, vibrant, passionate voice - one who potentially has been raised in the faith, and is Spirit-filled? One who may be overlooked because of their age - but might offer more wisdom than someone more than twice their age? Someone with a heart to serve, and a love of the church and community?
 
I'm not trying to say that youth are leaving the CRC because they aren't being elected to council - that's a more complex conversation. What I am saying is that all this youth talk gets me curious about how much listening to our youth we are doing - are we hearing them? are we respecting their voices? are we including them in the full life of the church?
 
And obviously I'm wondering what would happen if we had a teenage elder or deacon around the table. (Or as a delegate - not just advisor - to Synod!)
 
So, what do you think... how young is too young? 
Posted in:
Image Credit

The Network hosts user-submitted content.
Posts don't necessarily imply CRCNA endorsement, but must comply with our community guidelines.

Let's Discuss…

We love your comments! Thanks for your help upholding the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

I don't think a teenager has the maturity needed to be an elder or deacon. Having said that, I think it would be a good idea  to include them in the council somehow so they can become aware of what it means to lead the church. What I would like to see is more young people, teenagers and post high, given the responsibility of heading ministries in the church - youth groups, Gems, Cadets, Sunday School, etc. This will give them a chance to mature in their roles as leaders. It will also make them feel like they can make an important contribution to the church.  If the older generation has been in charge of youth ministries, it's time to turn over the job of leadership. This also gives the older members a chance to look at new ways God might be leading them. If we give our young people a chance to lead in ministry, to experience the joys and frustrations, that will help them to develop their leadership skills. Then they will be ready to lead as elders and deacons. Maybe they will even think of pursuing the call of ministry, after gaining some experience.

For me, a few ideas come to mind here.  First and foremost, maybe it's not about pushing the age limit lower and lower, but rather about first addressing the issue of the council strongholds being willing to pass on the baton to a younger generation of leaders, and to walk alongside them (as a council member ex-officio, or similar).  My guess is, without having this discussion first, and making this a council-wide priority, plugging in a 21 year old into the council room will have negative effects.

Second, I get frustrated when I hear about "youth representatives" on committees.  This creates a two-tier system, which essentially minimizes the voice of the youth.  Each person who sits at the table comes by nature as a representative of certain groups or demographics, but we name only the "youth rep" for our own agenda.  How come we don't have the "working moms rep" or "over 80 rep" or "knitter's rep" at the table?  

Last, never underestimate the potential having a young adult at the table can bring to the meeting.  What would it mean to have someone constantly ask, "So, tell me, why exactly are we doing it this way?" might slow the meeting down, but it would quickly bring intentionality back to the purpose of your church.  Not to mention the fact that there are some youth that simply have the gift of leadership, perhaps moreso than some of our existing members.  What better place to develop that than within the church?  We have a whole pile of children, youth, and young adults that love Jesus, love the church, and deeply desire to belong and invest in a local congregation.  They want to pour back into the community that helped shape their faith.  We absoutely must give them the opportunity!

Participant

How young is too young for council? Shoot, before we ask that question maybe we ought to deal with the question of how young is too young to be allowed to vote at congregational meetings. My congregation answered that by banning those under 16 from voting, even though they've made profession of faith. My motions to elimnate that were quickly shot down during both my terms on council. I mentioned that, given the policy, and in the interest of honesty, maybe we oughtn't read that part of the profession of faith form that says "I now welcome you to all the privileges of full communion. I welcome you to full participation in the life of the church. I welcome you to its responsibilities, its joys, and its sufferings."

Some interesting words from Job 32:

“I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
7 I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
8 But it is the spirit[b] in a person,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
9 It is not only the old[c] who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right."

a person is called by THE LORD to be part of HIS CHURCH.  after public profession of FAITH, he or she has not only the  RIGHT BUT ALSO THE DUTY to fully participate,in all aspects of KINGDOM  work/

Don't want to throw a wrench into the works, however, serving on council also means sitting on a board of an incorporated NGO. State/Provincial legislation in this area usually requires one to be of legal voting age. 

Consequently, the denomination needs to separate the matter of "profession of faith" from "membership in a society", i.e. church as a legal entity.

Being a youth pastor, I really appreciate this article for a few reasons. First, I think it gives a strong voice to something that's been swept under the rug for some time. I wasn't aware of this before working with them, but youth are full of brilliant ideas, energy, and charisma – something a lot of our congregations envy. What better way to harness those gifts than involving them in the core conversations. Secondly, the "maturity" of students is almost always undercredited. They may say or do things that are left field, but maybe that's also the reason they stay away from church leadership (because they're looked down upon so agressively). The church should be the place we not only encourage growth, but where we display grace. And what better way to show those qualities than at a leadership level?

I understand that there are legal boundaries to this, but most congregations won't consider anyone for leadership until at least mid twenties, nearly ten years after they can be "legally bound".

Don't think kids care about this? Simply ask them yourselves. I did and I was surprised at how disappointed they were for not being embraced as future leaders. 

We seem to be getting confused by several different issues here and mixing them all together.  

Profession of faith is a bit misnamed since it is seen as a committment to membership, not to faith.  After all, we wouldn't say that those who have not made profession of faith at age 6 or ten or sixteen are necessarily therefore without faith.  Perhaps the faith of a child is often stronger in fact.  So it is really a committment to membership, to particular confessions, to living a life of gratitude and joy and obedience to Christ, and recognizing this in a public way.  This could be done at perhaps age 12 or 16, but too many wait far too long; we might ask ourselves why they wait so long. 

Voting in a congregation ought to be at an age set by the congregation.  Perhaps at 18, or 16, or 20, whatever the congregation decides with council in its wisdom, but not automatically tied to a profession of faith, although it should be a pre-requisite.   In some cases, additional advisory votes by nonprofessing members could also be considered (but non-binding).   

Just because you can vote, doesn't mean you automatically should be able to sit on council.   Again, council and church should set a minimum age, recognizing that while wisdom can be present in the youth, it is not for nothing that elders are called elders and not youngers or middlers.   While exceptions should be possible, it would be good to look at possibly an age of about 30 for council.   I remember being on council a few years before that, and while it was good to serve, it would not have done any harm either to wait a few years. 

There are other places to lead and serve besides council.  Not only that, but no Christ-like elders would deliberately rule out conversations with non-council members, and would normally appreciate their input.  Council meetings are supposed to be open to anyone who wishes to attend, unless it is in executive session.   And non-council members can request an opportunity to speak or present an issue. 

Finally, I find it hard to believe that any council does not look forward to the future leadership of those who are presently young.  But as Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything, and everything in its time. 

Melissa, thank you for this post. Two quick observations are in order.  First, the criteria in scripture for church office is not age; it is spiritual maturity. Second, at age 13 Mormon "Teenagers" are inducted into the Aaronic Priesthood and at that point take on all the responsibilities of an adult member. In Soul Searching it is interesting that Mormon youth have a better understanding of their faith and tend to stick much better than Protestant youth. In light of the above observations perhaps it is time for us to recognize that teenagers are young adults who ought to be mentored into adulthood, and the role of adults and particularily elders, is to spiritually mentor young adults. 

Another important consideration is this, that being older does not automatically make you more spiritually mature.   And you can also probably think of examples where spiritual enthusiasm does not necessarily equate to spiritual maturity.   Sometimes I am thinking that spiritual enthusiasm might be better than spiritual maturity.  Even though it sometimes leads to mistakes and errors, spiritual enthusiasm does not have the error of complacency, which is often attached to "spiritual maturity".   So I would say that the spiritually enthusiastic youth ought not to let themselves be held back too much by the so-called spiritual maturity of the "olders".  Listen yes, consider yes, but live out your obedient joy in Christ in all its fulness where ever and whenever you have the opportunity! 

As I once heard someone say "People tell me that they've been a Christian for twenty years, when they've really been a Christian for only one year, and they've just been repeating themselves for the last 19."