Several Executive Members of the Provincial Youth Council were asked “Do you think the voice of the youth is being heard in the church?” to which the unanimous response was : “No”. I have heard Church leaders and Clergy announce in their congregations that “the youth are the church of today and not tomorrow”, but how can they (the youth), as full members (since their Confirmation) not be heard in any way and thereby fail to make a value contribution to the ministry of the church?
As Sheena Pereira relates “one of the primary reasons young people leave the church is because they are not heard” which means the elders are not taking the time and trouble to sit down with the young ones with the objective of getting to understand what young people are actually saying.
On the other hand, Kgowe Moleme suggests that “the young people have not been trained to express themselves properly”, especially in a language which can be clearly understood by the church. Neither have they learnt how to use the processes of communication within the church to make themselves heard.
One thing these members agree on is that “the processes are there to be used and that these rules for engagement must be used by the youth to speak up and to speak out” says Shane Thomas and Abigail Hopley.
One such process could be the hosting of a Youth Synod (to precede a Diocesan Synod) where young people can be taught the framework of Synod as a platform for dialogue and decisions, and where, after vigorous discussions and debating, the resulting resolutions can be put forward at a Diocesan Synod for consideration and adoption. The same can be suggested at a Provincial level (as done in Canada and New Zealand).
However, this does not preclude both the elders and the young people from initiating dialogue at parochial level in an attempt to develop relationships of acceptance and trust for one another. This is the first step to achieving great things together in the future. One thing will lead to another and soon a collaborative ministry will develop as everybody starts to work together for the common good.
And the issue of hosting a youth synod? I would encourage the Dioceses of our Province to strongly consider the hosting of a youth synod as a means of developing a much closer collaboration with the young people. Two Diocese in our Province have already done this with success. It does not have to be a long drawn out event. A Saturday would cover it and much can be achieved in 6 hours.
I believe the young people have much to share with us, and even more so, much to offer the church. However, it’s going to take concerted empathic listening (from both sides) if we are going to both hear and respond appropriately.
Tony Lawrence (Provincial Youth Coordinator)