GA News: Youth reach out to the church

There is a lot of talk in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) about declining membership and the need to reach out to youth as the future of the church — it just doesn’t usually come from the youth themselves.

 And it’s not often that one hears a group of adults arguing over who gets to volunteer. But some Presbyterian youth are doing just that.

When youth from Central Church in Atlanta decided to take a trip to San Jose in order to volunteer at the 218th General Assembly they ran into a roadblock before even beginning the journey.  “Originally we were going to come to the General Assembly to volunteer,” explains Olivia, age 14, “but we found out that the age limit was 18.” Rather than be deterred, the youth from Central Church decided to take action.

The students worked with their church’s session to create Commissioners Resolution 17-01, which asks the 218th General Assembly “to celebrate youth and affirm their unique gifts and talents by welcoming and encouraging their full participation at each General Assembly, including service as volunteers.” This resolution was presented to the Youth Advisory Delegates at the General Assembly. “In polity, theology, and witness, the gifts of youth are upheld, honored, and experienced in community through full participation in the life of the church” to “extend the reach of their inclusion beyond local congregations and into the General Assembly.”

The youth’s resolution quotes from Scripture, the Book of Order, and also draws upon their own witness. “We are on a mission,” says a confident Anna, age 12. “It’s a mission to lower the age for volunteering at General Assembly.” Hal, age 16 adds: “The work itself is grunt work, not the most exciting work that you can do. But for a lot of us having that 18 year old age limit is sending a message that this is not a place for youth.” Alex also expressed a similar sentiment confessing, “we felt that the youth weren’t welcome at the assembly because we couldn’t participate.” The youth from Central Church feel as though this resolution would welcome them and make them feel more apart of the assembly.

After finding out that they would not be able to volunteer at the General Assembly the youth decided to do a bit of research. This led them to the discovery that attendance was down by 14% in the PC(USA). “We feel like what is important now is to get youth involved in the church again and we heard the new moderator talk about that,” said Hal. “This is the first step to make a statement that this isn’t just for older people,” he continued.  For a church that spends a lot of time talking about how attract youth to the church, perhaps listening to the youth is one place to start. “We are here to help, to be a part of the Presbyterian church and we want to volunteer at the assembly and feel a part of it,” Alex, 15 said.
“We are the future, the next ones to carry the torch of the church,” Julian, 17, echoed, “but in order to do so we must learn the ways of the church.”