Let us have a voice: Young adults and advocacy in the church

"There isn't an age requirement to care about humanity," writes Young Adult Volunteer Naomi McQuiller.

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This past March, I joined the United Nations’ 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) alongside other young adults and members of the Presbyterian Women (PW) delegation. Over 12 days, all participants, including those from the PW and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) groups, attended events sponsored by the U.N., nongovernment organizations and nonprofits focused on empowering women and fighting for equality.

Since 1947, CSW has brought world leaders and activists together to promote gender equality. This year’s CSW was the first of its kind — hybrid. Advocates across the globe were able to participate in conversations around this year’s main focus: innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. For delegates from PW and the PC(USA), participating in this conversation also meant being knowledgeable of the PC(USA) policies on the education of women and girls.

I attended CSW in person, so I was able to speak with and learn from women who “do the work” both domestically and globally. These conversations stirred up a sense of duty in pursuing the great need for justice and equality among women and girls. For me, it also highlighted the largely untapped potential of young leaders, particularly young female leaders, in the global church. There is great need in the world and there is great passion from young leaders. Why aren’t we given more opportunities in the church to act on our passion to make the world a better place?

Young adults, including myself, are often selected to be in short-term positions on the session, organize a “youth/young adult” Sunday program, or be on the cover of the bulletin or monthly newsletter. However, it often feels like our thoughts and opinions are not heard when making churchwide decisions.

Young adults in the church do care deeply about the world around us. Will you let us care in the context of the church?

In my experience, there are two main reasons that youth aren’t trusted with leadership: we don’t know enough to be involved or we don’t have the right amount of experience. These two frameworks fail to realize that there isn’t an age requirement to care about humanity.

A group of young adults, including myself, met PC(USA) General Assembly co-moderator Shavon Starling-Louis during 2023’s CSW for a frank discussion about the role young adults have in the PC(USA). During this conversation, I shared my truth: the church doesn’t take us seriously as agents for change. It is my belief that we have been made ready for a time such as this. We are the ones we have been waiting for. There is no excuse for young adults to not be included in the world’s greatest social movement — the church.

The advocacy of young adults in the church is irreplicable. As a denomination with a direct focus on Matthew 25, we are collectively called to engage with the world around us by advocating for change that will benefit the most marginalized populations. This call is especially important now. We cannot be the church if young adults are not taken seriously.

So please listen to our voices. Give us opportunities to participate and lead in the church. Together, we can follow Jesus’ instruction to take up our cross and follow him. We can treat the needs of people as holy.

Young adults in the church do care deeply about the world around us. Will you let us care in the context of the church?

Related content: “A generational approach to ministry innovation” by Mark DeVries and Trey Wince.