You’ve seen the lists:
- Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list was published yesterday highlighting “today’s leading young change-makers and innovators in the U.S.” Many of them have experienced enormous financial success before their fourth decade on this earth. Good for them.
- South Carolina honors 20 leaders under 40 each year through The State magazine. They include young mayors and business leaders.
- Billboard published their 40 under 40 list last fall declaring that “today’s superstars wouldn’t be topping charts, filling arenas, and disrupting the music business without the vision and hustle of these pioneering young executives.“
As writer Julie Rodgers tweeted yesterday “The 30 under 30 lists are cute and all, but I’m looking for 70 over 70 in 2017. Where’s the love for our elders?”
Nevertheless, I want The Church to know that there are 1000 under 25 who are spending the last days of their college winter vacation at the Montreat College Conference learning about being the hands and feet of Jesus, discovering their life’s purpose, serving faithfully in the business world, waking up to systemic racism, considering work as Young Adult Volunteers, and strategizing for social justice. Actually most of them are younger than 25. But their leaders are here too and most of them are under 35.
“The Church is not dying; it’s reforming because we are here.” J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA reminded us of this truth yesterday.
Like an anthropologist studying exceedingly rare creatures, I’ve been asking around about these unicorns who have shown up at Montreat this week:
- Do they all have a romantic idealism about saving the world?
- Do they all hope to go to seminary one day?
- Are they really here because they just wanted to get out of their parents’ houses for a couple of days before returning to college?
Actually many of them said that – get this – they want to be active in local congregations when they get out of school and start their first jobs.
Dear Church People: Please do not waste this opportunity to welcome the participation and leadership of the young adults who cross the thresholds of your church building doors. For the love of God (literally) please do not shatter their optimism with un-Jesus-like behavior. Please do not assume that you know what’s best for them. (Maybe they don’t want to work in the nursery.) Please listen to them when they tell you what they know. They know a lot. Sincerely, Jan
- Consider ordaining high school students and college students to the office of Ruling Elder. Yes, they will be leaving town soon, but they have spiritual insights that we need to hear. And (with my co-moderator hat on) Denise Anderson and I are often asked to select ruling elders to serve on committees and task forces. We would love to have a larger pool of leaders under 40 to consider. National church service is excellent experience both for the wider Church and for these young leaders as they discern their life’s calling.
- Allow young adults to mentor you. I occasionally talk about co-mentoring – like here. Yes, there’s wisdom that experienced/older leaders can share with not-so-experienced leaders but we have so much to learn about how to be a 21st Century Church from people who are turned off by a 20th Century Church mentality.
- Make intergenerational participation more than cosmetic. This, frankly, also goes for other kinds of inclusion (race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.) It’s not enough to have a variety of participants. We are best served by a variety of leaders.
The Church is not dying; it’s reforming. There are over 1000 college students proving that before my eyes this week. Thanks be to God.
Image from Anderson Auditorium at Montreat Conference Center on 1-2-17.