Giving voice to a new generation
By now we should all be aware of some of the basic statistics about our Church. We are well educated – above average on that score. But we are ageing and declining in numbers. The last National Church Life Survey revealed that about 45% of members in our Synod are over the age of 70. We are desperately missing young people in our Church.
I have listened over the years to calls for young people to get involved in the councils of the Church. I have heard the lament, “There aren’t any young people around here”, when I know that the local high school is thriving. And I appreciate not all churches in the same area are facing the situation we have in quite the same way. Some places still have active youth groups (and yes, I am writing from my particular cultural perspective, I know).
We need a new commitment to growing the Church. If we decide not to grow we are deciding to stagnate and that means deciding to die. I cannot believe that is what God called us to when we worked towards the dream of the UnitingChurch.
We need to be investing in working with young people if there is going to be a bright future for us. We need to trust young people and the contribution they can make. We need to make room for them as leaders of the Church. It was wonderful to have a contingent of young, high school-age people fully involved in the life of the Synod this year when we met at KnoxGrammar School.
I am thrilled that in this issue of Insights we have exciting and incredibly inspiring stories of young people and how they are contributing. Their wisdom belies their years. We have some incredible young leaders in our Church – some are coming through the work of UnitingChurch in Australia Tertiary Students Association (UCATSA), or the School of Discipleship or President’s National Young Leaders Conference. Some may come from National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) – to be held in our own back yard in January 2014. Some are in the stories of people you will read about here.
But none of them will come to maturity in Christ unless they are nurtured and encouraged and given opportunities to be involved in every aspect of the life of the Church. I candidated for the ministry at 18. I shudder to think back at the memory of some of those early sermons that I preached! For most of my time in college I was the youngest student around. There have been many times in my journey in the Church when I have still been the youngest person around. Please…I don’t want to be the youngest one around when I retire!
Rev Dr. Andrew Williams