BLOGFORCE ROUNDUP – Gathering the Generations for General Convention

BlogforceVerticalLast week, the question was posed to the BLOGFORCE:

According the Pew Research, adult GenXers and Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers by nearly 2 to 1, but when we look at General Convention the statistics don’t match up.  In what ways can the Church create opportunities to lift up younger leaders, lay and ordained, to serve as Deputies to General Convention?“

We received several responses, which are listed in the order received


Joe Parrish blogged:

In general, younger people are not leaders because they have few if any to lead. Some few lead teams to feed the homeless in some churches, with their parents’ guidance, but in general TEC itself does not have venues for younger people to lead, and that is reflected throughout the church; and vice versa. If we have ways to raise up leaders in our parishes, then we might find ways to raise up leaders in our dioceses, and thus for TEC. In general the leadership process has worked through the ordination process, and has omitted other access to potential leadership. So we thus need to find non-ordination ways of raising up young leaders. To wait until someone is a success in business, or has become a lawyer or accountant or doctor is to stymie young leadership. To seat a young person on a Vestry often omits the need to have people of substance and generosity in those seats, as younger people usually do not have earning power, jobs, or experience. And if they begin an endeavor right after high school, they are generally consumed by that. So the challenge is to find young entrepreneurs, self-starters. They will have a different orientation to the church as it exists, however, so learning how to guide a great ship with little ship experience is the challenge. We face the problem of putting new wine in old wineskins. So TEC needs to found new wineskins in order to nurture new wine. We need new parishes to be formed even if there are old ones still there. Opportunities need to be discerned in order to begin a process of producing new wine skins who will nurture new wine.

Andrea McKellar blogged:

Andrea McKellar was a first time deputy to the 2015 General Convention at the “youngish” age of 36 from The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. She shares her experience in being raised up as a leader in The Episcopal Church as an example of what works and challenges other dioceses to go out and find people. Young adults want to change the world but sometimes they needed an extra push to get a seat at the table.

Miranda Hassett blogged:

Many people in this age group have or will have young kids. Going to Convention without your kids is hard and sad, even if you’re lucky enough not to have to worry about arranging extra childcare at home, sacrificing family vacation time, etc. And going to Convention with your kids is quite expensive. Let’s do better next time with that second point?

In addition, there were many comments on the post on Facebook.  Some examples are posted anonymously below:

Schedule diocesan conventions outside business hours, provide childcare and focus clergy on looking for folks who know little about polity

Some equivalent of term limits. Only electable so many times.

Figure out a way so those of us who don’t work for the church professionally (either lay or ordained) don’t have to take so many vacation days to attend.

Make General Convention interesting and engaging and much shorter.

Not make it two weeks. If you even get a paid vacation, general convention takes it all. And if you have kids, childcare becomes an issue. And make a connection between General Convention and the parish-I have a hard time seeing that connection very often as clergy, much less as someone who doesn’t work in the church.

I had a clergy person I deeply respect tell me it took her five general conventions as a delegate to feel like she knew what was going on (and she’s intelligent and capable). I was still in high school when she first started going. Why is it so unwieldy that this is the case? That it takes years and years? Maybe we need to set term limits on delegates.

What is required is for our older saints to begin actively mentoring younger people and gradually and willingly stepping aside to allow new leaders to emerge. Not always easy, but our failure to learn to do this will be our undoing. It takes great generosity of spirit to give up ones prestigious, well earned position of authority to help the church breath and grow.

Respectfully Submitted,
David Simmons, BLOGFORCE Wing Commander


Louise Fortuna

Thank you for this! I went to GC in 2012 and, although a lay staff member at a church, I did have to take vacation since I was not going as part of my job, but instead as a lay member of the Church. I can see why that is a barrier for people.

As for child care, it was offered in 2012 and I took my six-month old son! Having child care available was the only way it was possible for me to go and the people who organized it and took care of my son were AMAZING. I wonder how many people know it’s available? I was elected almost two years before GC. Planning that far ahead also seems like a bit of a stumbling block. I wouldn’t have looked for child care if it hadn’t become an issue between my election and the actual convention. =) Anyway, I’m so glad I went. I image that one issue is simply reaching the younger people, and I think that will probably require actively approaching them and having face-to-face conversations with them about this opportunity.

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