Where are the young people?
Before I get into youth and young Adults in the Church, let me introduce myself. I’m Megan Mong, a recent graduate of Wittenberg University with a degree in religion and a minor in sociology. I will be living In Jerusalem as a part of the Young Adults in Global Mission program of the ELCA in the upcoming year. I’ve been to three Churchwide assemblies, two as a voting member and one as a Global Young Reformer with the Lutheran World Federation. Every time I go to a church sponsored event I am asked, “Where are the rest of the young people?” which is a valid question, but is it the right question? I think a better question is, “Where are we for the young people?”
I think one of the most important things that has kept me so involved in the church is the relationships and connections I’ve made through church. The most common questions asked to a youth/young adult are 1. How’s your family? and 2. How’s school going? And 3. What’re you doing next? Which are valid questions, but to keep people coming back you have to be authentic and willing to invest time into the relationship. Ask deep questions and fully engage! Invite younger members out to a lunch or dinner and get to know them! It might be awkward, but developing a relationship is well worth it (even if they do decide the church isn’t where they want to be)!
It’s also important that you acknowledge the youth and young adults already in your congregation. Show your support and encourage them into larger roles within the church! Tell them about leadership opportunities like church and synod council positions, the ELCA Youth Leadership Summit, encourage them to go to synod/Churchwide assembly, YAGM/LVC, or attending one of the 26 ELCA colleges and the 7 seminaries! Let them plan and lead a church service or organize an event for your congregation! Listen to what they’re saying and take them seriously! They aren’t just the future of the church, they’re the church of today!