Monday, March 7, 2011

20-Somethings in the PCUSA

Something that has been on my mind rather frequently is the role of young adults in the church. I wrote a bit about it in my post about the TAMFS webinar, but it continues to be on my mind so I will focus on it for this post. This topic is regularly on my mind because it affects me a great deal. Being twenty-two years old, in the church, contemplating my future as a possible pastor within the church brings the issue to the forefront of my attention. Additionally, I have been reading Jim Kitchens' book The Postmodern Parish, which I highly recommend and a quote from it has continued my thinking about young adults in the church. Kitchens writes, "We puzzle over why older members want to hold on to forms of church life that may have inspired them when they were young, but that do not meet the needs of today's 20-somethings." I find this to be very true, at least in my area. There are programs for the youth but once you hit a certain age, usually somewhere in the sphere of 20, it is difficult to find a place to belong within the church.

For the children there are Sunday school classes catered to their age level. For the youth there is youth group. For the adults of the church, they have their own Sunday School class and gender specific meetings (at my church [Clinton Presbyterian Church] it is Men's Breakfast and Ladies' Lunch Bunch). But what is there for those that fall in between. Those of us that are too old for a youth group and yet feel to young to be in the same Sunday school class as our 70 year old members? Outside of my congregation is exists as well. There are summer camps and youth retreats for those in middle school and high school, but what of those in college? When there appear to be no interest paid to this range of members how are we to feel?

The more I think about this gap within the church, the more I pay attention to the different things I attend. Yesterday, at church, I looked around the sanctuary and saw three people under the age of 35. If we raise the age to 40, it only grew be a very small number, which included The Pastor! This is not in just our congregation, according to Presbyterian Research Services, 8 in 10 worshipers in PC(USA) pews are aged 45 or older. I go to Presbytery meetings and look around and I am almost always the youngest person and unless their are seminarians present, the only one under 35. If I take a look at our Middle Governing Bodies, it is the same story. At the Synod of the Northeast meeting back in October, I was the only YAD. No other Presbytery sent a Youth Advisory Delegate, and for some presbyteries it was because they did not bother to ask a youth. At the meeting I stood up and asked who in meeting was under the age of 40. There were two people at the entire Synod meeting...myself and my pastor (Rev. Cindy Kohlmann).

I think it is time for the PCUSA to realize the role that the young adult members are capable of playing. Both the median and mean age of PCUSA members is 60 years old. I am a little over 1/3 of the age of the majority of our members. I wonder if we found a way to include those in that 20-somethings category, if that statistic would change? The Youth are the future of the church and we need a voice in the church. Furthermore, I believe that the Youth of the church need to have a voice and representation. From the chances I have had I have been able to meet people from all over the country. Attending Synod meetings and conferences has allowed me to meet amazing people within the church (like our Former Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow and Vice-Moderator Byron Wade). The young adults of today are the future leaders of our church and I think it is time that the 20-somethings have a chance to show their potential.

*My experience pertains to The Presbytery of Boston and the Synod of the Northeast. For those Presbyteries and Synods that have opportunities for the 20-somethings, that find ways to keep the 20-Somethings involved in church and have found a way to minster directly to them, I applaud you.*

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