Monday, June 26, 2006

Where have all the young ones gone?

GEN-X RISING: Decline in young leadership threatens Methodism's future.

I wonder if the decline in young people being interested in the pastorate in the UMC is because we've done a rather lousy job as a denomination in terms of supporting our youth and young adults. Many congregations don't affirm the leadership skills of the youth in their congregations, ascribing to the theory that youth should be "seen and not heard." Youth are reduced to "tokens," thrust forward as an example of "See! We have a youth program -- here's a youth right now!"

If the church has botched reaching the young people of my generation, think of how they are failing the youth now. Nothing has really changed in terms of the denomination's approach to young people. Granted, things may vary from Conference to Conference, but New England has done a miserable job in cultivating an atmosphere where youth are valued and upheld as the present reality of our church. There are individual churches who do well at this, however...but they are few and far between. In general, youth are glaringly absent from the life of a congregation. It seems to me that the link between this absence of support and the low numbers of young clergy is fairly obvious.

QUICK EDIT: I would love it if there was some sort of network for young clergy/young UM seminarians planning on ordination. I believe there is a seminarians one among the 13 UM seminaries, but I have no idea who Drew's contact is. Hmph. The website is


Susie said...

Hey Melissa, I found you through Rev Gals. I'm a late-20s Episcopal priest... you know, the polity is different and all, but we had (have) an under-30 clergy & seminarians email group set up on Yahoo, and a couple GenX lists too. They aren't hard to set up, might be worth looking into. Good luck!

Melissa said...

Hi Susie,

Yeah, we have some new networking stuff set up, but it really hasn't gotten off the ground yet.

David said...

I think you're all to right. Youth aren't really a present-tense factor in most of our churches. Even in churches with youth programs, many of the adults justify them by saying "the youth are the FUTURE of the church..."

I'm just into a new appointment, and I'm wondering how we'll begin to reach Gen X and beyond, especially in the church in the charge whose membership list doesn't even include phone numbers, let alone email addresses.

Glad to see you want to serve in New England -- My wife and I are under 30, and we're hoping for more young pastors, not just because we need some long-term folks in 20 years, but also because we need to make some shifts in the way we think about ministry if we're going to reach new generations with the good news of God's love in Jesus Christ.