By Carrie Bland
Photos by Teri Tobey
One of my favorite things about Annual Conference is working with the pages and youth delegates. This year we have a large group. We all know what our pages do, but what about the youth delegates? Well, they are youth, who have applied to be delegates or voting members of Annual Conference. I sat down with them today to get their thoughts on their experience. Fun fact: we can have up to two delegates per district. This year we have 10! YAY!
This is more than we’ve had in the past few years. I asked why they decided to give up their first weekend of the summer to come to Annual Conference – and their answers ranged from wanting to make a difference to responding to General Conference.
These youth are so very passionate about earth care, understanding what’s happening with the larger church body, and rights for the LGBTQI community. They are eager to share their perspectives and believe their opinions matter. I asked what they were worried about before coming here…and the biggest fear was, that because they were young, their voice would be ignored. They said the number one misconception adults had here at Annual Conference is that all youth are pages.
Our youth give of their time just as we adults do; they care deeply about the issues we are discussing and they want to bring back what they’ve learned to their home churches, their districts, and all the youth in our Conference. They want to keep the momentum going around these issues, and want to see changes and hard work being done at Annual Conference be realized throughout all the churches.
Our youth are ready to join in these discussions, ready to do the work, and eager to be part of the decision-making. Of the 10 delegates two of them are returning, four of them were pages in previous years, and six are completely new to Annual Conference. These are articulate, kind, giving youth, and they are willing to discuss different perspectives, willing to learn from the adults in the room, and willing to speak up even when they are nervous.
If you see a youth, I encourage you to reach out to them, introduce yourself, and ask them about their experience. The new youth have questions about what’s going on, so take some time and answer questions. It will encourage their enthusiasm and they will share it with more youth.
With our pages, voting youth & young adults we have 31 young people here in official roles, and there are many more who are here as members at large. Our young care, and it gives me hope for our future. Stop and say hi when you see them. You’ll be happy you did.
Carrie Bland will serve as an associate pastor at Seattle: Bryn Mawr UMC.
Teri Tobey serves as the program associate for Young People’s Ministries, PNWUMC.