Tuesday, June 10, 2008

from Bishop Willimon: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders

Just read this post at Bishop Willimon's blog, which concludes:

"[This] story is far from unique. This is what happens when we really focus ourselves upon the priority of a new generation of Christians. I’m recommending that next year our entire Annual Conference be focused upon the single priority of empowering a new generation, that any reports be made exclusively by those under forty, and that every church send lay delegates who are all under forty. [New, young leaders] are in every congregation. We must notice them, nurture them, and empower them for God to use them in giving our church a future. By God’s grace, we will!"

What do you think of the Bishop's proposal? I like the concreteness of the plan - very specific things that will be done to empower young people, young new leaders. But I'm undecided. What would your session of annual conference look like if all or most of the lay delegates were under 40? What would it feel like if presentations were made only by those under 40? How active is the under 40 crowd in your conference sessions already?

My own annual conference, like many, I'm sure, tries hard to support young people. Every year, for example, thanks to Bishop Violet Fisher, we take an offering to support our youth attending the NEJ Mission of Peace. This year, we have two young women going to Zimbabwe, at a cost of $4500/person. The conference gave over $8000 in a love offering for their trip, virtually completing the fundraising efforts for these young people, which is a huge gift. The bishop has a policy of always having a young person seated with her on the dais during sessions, and she usually takes time to personally speak about each of them, since she has come to know most of them personally. Our conference secretary makes sure young people are part of his team taking minutes and following the action of conference. We actually consistently elect at least some young people to General and Jurisdictional Conference. These are just a few of the little ways our conference tries to nurture young people. But for every positive, there is vast room for growth, and more intentional behavior. We have many young members of conference, but still a small segment overall. Many churches still seem unaware of the conference youth ministry programs, despite our annual presentation of what we do. We've been working hard to get the word out about what we do. And, our Young Adult Ministries have been virtually nonexistent in the conference. We're working on that, and I'm excited about some possibilities, but it hasn't been given much attention or support in the past.

How do we best empower a new generation? What would be your strategy for going about that? What do you think of Bishop Willimon's proposals?
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