Last week I was part of a small group that met to give feedback to Executive Council as they begin to interpret and enact the budget passed at General Convention. You can read more background on that in Susan’s post from last week about the group she was a part of. My group was looking at Mark 3: Responding to human need by loving service. Our particular focus was on line 79 of the budget, which directs $1,000,000 for “making missionary service available for all Episcopal young people.” (Line 81 grants $200,000 for support of Episcopal Service Corps, but we did not deal directly with that since it is a grant and therefore a different beast altogether.) As Canon Missioner at the Cathedral in Louisville, I serve young adults in the local congregation, serve as a campus minister in my university’s Interfaith Center, and serve as Director of an Episcopal Service Corps intern program. I’ve also worked directly with 2 of the 4 Young Adult Service Corps missionaries from my diocese (including current YASCer Grace Flint, serving this year in Hong Kong!). I served as a deputy to General Convention in 2009 & 2012. I was specifically asked to be able to inform the group about the Episcopal Service Corps.
Like Susan, I don’t need to share details of our report as it was offered only as advisory feedback, and was ultimately pretty narrow in scope.
I do think it’s appropriate to share a few things which were primary for me in thinking about the church’s work with young people in general.
1) It was great to have a frank discussion about some of the realities of young adults and implications for ministry with them. Having young practitioners around the table was very helpful.
2) Those of us who care deeply about lifting up a new generation of leadership must keep pushing, pushing, pushing the need for YAs to be at the table. We must hold up the expectation that those in the greatest positions of power in the church should work to give it away. We should look for opportunities to be last of all, to be servant of all. That’s what I expect from Christian leadership. Good leadership looks around for emerging leaders and gives over resources and power to support their voices. And if you want to know what resonates with young adults, you have to ask them 🙂
3) We have to get our head around this paradigm shift as we think about mission, whether local or global: we are now living as a post-establishment church. In many contexts, we will have to take a Luke 10 posture*: one of learner rather than teacher; we will have to begin to depend on others’ hospitality rather than assume they “need” us; we will have to actually seek Christ, rather than assuming we are being sought.
We surrounded our discussions in bible study and prayer, using Luke 4:16-30 as our scriptural ground. I’ll say more about that in another post…
All of this is to say: in mission work with young people, like all ministry, it’s always better to do the work with someone rather than for/to them. And if you look around and don’t see the people you know you need/want to be in ministry with, you gotta start approaching it differently. You gotta get busy seeking Christ.
*See Dwight Zcheile’s excellent and very accessible book People of the Way, especially chapter 5, for a deeper exploration of this text as a model for 21st century mission.
We met September 24 & 25 in Minneapolis. Roster:
- Ms. Bronwyn Clark Skov (Co-Convener), Staff, Lifelong Christian Formation & Youth Officer
- Ms. Anne Watkins (Co-Convener), Executive Council Representative
- The Rev. David Copley, Staff, Mission Personnel Officer (oversees Young Adult Service Corps)
- Mr. Jason Sierra, Staff (under 30), Young Adult Leadership & Vocations Officer
- The Rev. Cn. Amy Real Coultas, practitioner, representing Episcopal Service Corps
- The Rt. Rev. Brian Prior, Bishop of Minnesota
- Mr Longkee Vang, practitioner (under 30)
- The Rev. Cn. Emily Morales, PB&F representative
- The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls, COO
- The Rev. J. Sierra Wilkinson (not able to attend), practitioner (under 30)