By Brianna Smith
May 17, 2016

How much do you want us?

During General Conference, I’ve noticed that adults are asking the question, “Where are the youth delegates?” It seems to me that they are forgetting one of the most important things in society today: The education of young people.

The simple answer to your simple question is we are in school. September through June, five days a week from 8 am to 3 pm, kids between the ages of 5-18 are in a school system. From 18-21, students are in the most vigorous classes they have ever had to take in colleges and universities. So I guess a better question for the people at General Conference to be asking is: “What can we change to include youth?

I am a 17-year old junior in High School. Almost every day, I wake up at 6:45 and go to school. After the regular school day is over I have extra-curricular activities that can keep me at school until 5pm. I am also involved in college level classes that give me homework. General Conference is two weeks long. I would miss at least ten days of school. Washington State only allows high schoolers to miss twelve full days of school per semester. Speaking for myself, I would have been honored and excited to have the experience of going to General Conference. However, I could not sacrifice that much school. Although I’m speaking from my personal experiences and feelings, I don’t know any student who could sacrifice two full weeks of learning during state sport championships, state testing, finals preparations, SATs, and graduation preparations. While I am aware that General Conference is not just about our communities in the United States, I feel that because of this, the Church should make a larger effort to include all voices of the church.

You are asking where the youth are at and that is the simplest answer. The more accurate answer is that we’re already here. While you are all so consumed with the ideas that there are no youth in the church, you seem to forget and overlook the ones who are already there. We who go to church and youth group, district and conference gatherings, camps and retreats want to be more involved. But it seems as though you won’t let us. Changing a date is always difficult. Not everyone can always be at every event, but it seems to me that if an entire population cannot attend, than maybe missing a few from another population is worth the sacrifice.

What’s wrong with June? I’m not saying that every youth would be able to attend the event, but not every adult can attend the one in May. We’re seeing lots of possibilities for hope for almost every member of the United Methodist Church from Africa to the Philippines, New York City to Selah, Washington and yet, quite possibly one of the easiest changes of all is being overlooked. You expect the youth to sacrifice all our time and we would, but when we are in school we have no more time to give. So I pose another question: What is the Church willing to do to hear our voices?

Brianna Smith is a high school youth from the Selah United Methodist Church in the Pacific Northwest Conference. 


  1. This is a familiar problem in the local church when we try to schedule meetings (older people can’t drive after dark, working age people have to be at work, youth and young adults have to balance school and jobs). It is a larger problem as we move up the scale (a church meeting may be 2 hours plus travel; Annual Conference 2-4 days; Jurisdictional Conference, General Conference, 2 weeks). Working adults can rarely afford to take two weeks off for conferences (that’s often their entire annual vacation). Students, as you point out, are trying to finish the school year (consider a youth delegate traveling from Africa or Europe). Thank you for your words, Brianna. You are right. We changed Annual Conference dates because we cross state lines and school years end on different dates. Some states have year-round school. Different countries have different school calendars altogether. Part of the solution is to have different dates, but there may be more that has to be done and there may be other solutions. Each generation will have to seek solutions to the issues like this (perhaps your generation will do General Conference by Skype or FaceTime). But please continue to make your voice heard at the local church so those who come to GC will have at least heard you.

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