When we use the term “youth”, to whom are we really referring? I’ve had discussions with people in the church who would consider those under 40 as “youth”, others seem to think the under 20 brigade best fits the term. For what it’s worth the United Nations defines “youth” as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24.
Whatever age you happen to make the cut-off, there’s no denying that the church has a bit of a challenge on its hands with its youth recruitment and we need to properly define whether a 35-year-old leader could really be classified as a “youth leader” (full disclosure: I’m 33 and I certainly don’t feel like a “youth” anymore when I run around a football field with 20-year-olds).
I recently had the opportunity to interview Carolyn Kitto about her fourteen-month trek around Queensland to measure the health of the state’s presbyteries and it was a sobering discussion. One of the major takeaways from our interview was the alarming statistics the Uniting Church has when it comes to its youth and how that is having knock-on effects for the decline in adult members.
There’s no easy fix to the challenge but there are probably some tough discussions needed around trust, transition and whether the recruitment strategies in place are formulated alongside youth leaders or are primarily being driven by older members. I eagerly welcome your letters on Carolyn’s article and what she had to say about the church’s youth statistics.
Chris Ellinger’s riveting article exploring the test(s) of faith he experienced during his family’s experiences living in Cambodia as Christian missionaries, demonstrates how humbling and ultimately nourishing a trust in God’s will can be for the soul. Chris writes, “Following God where he leads is not primarily about courage … it’s about a recognition that, ultimately, it is better, richer, greater to walk with him, than to walk away from him,” and hopefully his story will inspire you to support the great work he and others like him are doing around the world.
Finally we continue our 40th anniversary specials with a focus on the Basis of Union written by former Assembly president (1991–1994) and secretary of the Joint Commission on Church Union Rev Dr D’arcy Wood. It’s a great reminder of where the church started and how far it has come since the seventies: “Uniting” is a journey, not a destination.