contributing writer Chassity Neckers*
Photo: Emma McKirdy-Wilsey, Natalie Buck, Matt Bader and Nathan Bader from the Dakotas Conference were four of the young adults who attended the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria. The Dakotas Conference had the highest percentage of young adults in their delgatation with six out of the ten delegates in the age range of 18-35. Photo courtesy of Matt Bader.
It has been said that the millennial generation is the most studied and talked about demographic group today. The millennial generation seeks to promote change in our world though we are also a group that is still very much in need of guidance.
During the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, delegates and visitors in the 18–30(ish) age group gathered to talk about what issues in the Church were most important to them. While these, bright-eyed and still slightly optimistic delegates, gathered to discuss what was important to their generation and their hopes for the Church, what became apparent was how we were not living into the NCJ conference theme of “Living Together…In Unity..Amid Diversity…for Ministry.”
You see, the one defining thing about the mellenial generation is that they, are an individualistic culture. It’s about “me” or “us.” The young adults gathered because they desired to talk about what was important to them, only to realize that they may be pushing themsselves further away from the Church.
"I sent a tweet out asking other young adults if they would like to gather to talk," said Walker Brault, Minnesota Conference. "As good as it is to talk with and be multi-generational, we have a difference perspective. We like to be with people who are the same age."
Photo: Walker Brault, Minnesota Conference writes ideas as young adults gathered to discuss at the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria. Photo courtesy of NCJ communicators.
It is easy to look at the Church and say “this is where we are doing things wrong, and this is how I would fix this,” which can often be the case when a group of passionate, Jesus-loving young adults get together. However, this stance fails to accomplish the mission of the church if the young adults are no more than “complainers”, “problem-seekers.” They find they are at a crossroads, trying so hard to set themselves apart as a group of young adults in the church, only to find as the “token young adults” that their conferences could look at to pat themselves on the back that youth were involved in the business of the church.
“As a young adult it sometimes feels like we are on the outside of the church. People talk about young adults like we are not there or part of the church. We are not separate. We are a part of the church and want to be involved,” echoed Emma McKirdy-Wilsey, Dakotas Conference.
They are more than a token, they are a voice. Throughout discussions during North Central Jurisdictional Conference, young adults found that thier voice will only be strengthened as they choose to be humble, gather at the table with those from other generations, and seek to reach out for understanding, together. While there are many issues in the church that inspire the millenial generation to action, they are not the only generation to be considering such things. Topics such as culture of call, cost of seminary, human sexuality, social justice, need for mentors, and church budget are universal, not individualistic.
"I have appreciated the opportunity to work in ministry with people of all generations. I have learned a great deal from their wisdom and experience. I know they have also learned from mine. It isn't just about growing as individuals though, it's about growing as a body of Christ. I think authentic intergenerational relationships and collaboration foster great growth," shared Tyler Best, Indiana Conference.
Photo: Nathan Bader, Dakotas Conference answers questions duruing an interview at the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria. Photo by Dave Stucke, Dakotas Conference Communications.
“One of the coolest things for me was to be in a small group with someone who was 60, 66 and 70 (years of age) and to realize we all were connected, have things in common and are one church,” said Nathan Bader, 18, Dakotas Conference.
Brault is hoping the conversaton will continue. "We have set up Facebook group and we are going try to keep connected that way," said Brault.
These past few days in Peoria, Ill. have reminded us that we are “one body, made up of many parts,” that what makes us unique, actually fits together perfectly to accomplish the mission of the church. All generations, not just millennials, have a part to play in the future of The United Methodist Church, we all just have to listen first.
*Chassity Neckers is a Content Specialist for the Indiana Conference.