How Do We Get Youth Interested in Our Denominations?

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Maybe the question should be “Is it important to get youth interested in our denominations?” I believe it is, indeed, important and the blessing and missional impact of denominations like the CRCNA should be shared with youth. Maybe you disagree.

Now I’m going to jump to the topic of youth at Synod and how strategic this is in the goal of including youth in denominational participation.  There is a financial cost to bringing youth to Synod and considerable time spent including them in Synod.  I don’t have a problem with this, but I wonder if these students wouldn’t learn more about the denomination if they were involved in missional activities throughout the wider church.  Of course I realize we can do both.  So I am not suggesting we discontinue the inclusion of youth at Synod.   I just figured it might be a good discussion point for some of you folks reading this who know far more than I do about these things.

Synod, and the governance of the church, is a critical element of the denomination.  But is it going to hold the attention of youth delegates and get them fired up to participate in and see the value of denominational ministry?  You tell me.  I do know that when students get the vision of ministry outside the walls of their church, they have a passion to serve.  When students understand how the relationship and partnership of congregations within the CRCNA impact the world for Christ, they can see the value of our denominational ties.

Again, I’m not suggesting we leave youth at home when Synod rolls around.  I just want to hear what others think as we look for opportunities to encourage youth to participate in the life of the denomination.

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I think an even better question is, WHY is it important to get youth involved in the denomination, and why would they want to be involved in the denomination?

I think it is much more important for youth to be involved in their  church, rather than in the denomination.   If they see the church as living, believing, trusting, honest, and trustworthy, then they might see the church as an example of what the denomination is like.   Their involvement in the church ought to include an understanding of where the church came from, what it believes, why it holds to its confessions, how the confessions influence the faith life of worship and the daily life of its members.  While change in the church is evidence that the church is listening and compassionate and caring and relevant, it also highlights the possiblity of larger changes.   For example, if lots of small changes are constantly possible within a church, then a young adult would begin to think that larger changes are not so dramatic or significant, one of those larger changes being membership in a church of another denomination.   Being able to distinguish between insignificant small changes, and significant confessional changes, is something that would be important to youth.  It would be something that provides a reason for youth to attach to and be loyal to their  church, which they might then extend to the denomination because of its common confession. 

A few youth might place a lot of significance in the denomination, and want to participate in denominational discussions.  But most youth are looking for a hands on relationship with people who can live the gospel, and confess their faith.  They are often at the stage of learning how Christ is lord of their life, not at looking at the intracacies of denominational policy discussions.  They are usually looking for leadership, not wanting to be leaders, even though they may challenge assumptions and leaders from time to time. 

"Youth" is also much too broad a term to be able to get at the essence of this.   Youth encompasses people from age 10 to age 18, and there are dramatic differences in how they look at life, and what kind of things they want to get involved in.  These changes and differences even carry on into the young adult category, from age 18 to 25 or so.   There is no blanket age category that covers all scenarios.  Those who might want to get involved in denominational issues and structures would be a very small minority. 

I agree with Paul that the costs of youth delegates, as well as their assumed significance would suggest that there are better ways to get their input.  What makes their input more significant than the input of all those others who have never been elders or deacons or classical or synodical delegates?   And which group of youth?   Young marrieds?   twelve year olds?   college kids?   farm kids?   unmarried twenty-somethings?  homeschooled graduates?  Youth are only united by age, and are as diverse as the families they come from.   Anyway, things to think about.