Calling young people for MINISTRY NOW!
By Amy Pazan | Photos by Kats Berry

Relevance X took place in Las Vegas from February 14 to 17, 2013. Amy Pazan, from The Pacific Northwest Conference was in attendance and shares her passion and excitement for being a United Methodist young person.

The young people of the United Methodist Church are ALIVE, AWAKE, ALERT and ENTHUSIASTIC of what is the now and the future of the Church.

“How can this be?” one might ask. Through the Relevance X event in Las Vegas, Nev. sponsored by The Claremont School of Theology and hosted within The Desert Southwest Annual Conference, we came to realize and understand that the future of the church is within us – but, we have to start making an impact NOW more than ever.

The future starts now…because if we say we will start helping young people in year 2015 we will not get anywhere. The young people who are in the church of today want more opportunities and resources for how they can be involved in the church – on the local, district, conference, jurisdictional, and national level. Time and time again young people are left out of the conversation of what the future church needs or wants to be.

The young people of today want a church that is accepting of who we are in this moment of our lives. Young people are the type of people who don’t like the idea of conforming themselves into something they are not. This generation is one that is less judgmental about people. Whether it’s having a different sexual orientation or cultural background we agree to disagree in some sense that what the church is doing is prohibiting its ability to flourish and revitalize.

During one of the workshops the Rev. Shalom Agtarap of Ellensburg UMC lead us through some exercises to discover who we are as young people and what we want to see in the future of the Church. Our first topic of discussion was about identifying our “mountain top experience” with God. A mountain top experience is something uplifting, inspiring, and/or life-changing. My small group reflected on how we wanted other people to be able to experience the same mountain top experience we had – but tailored for their own liking.

Another discussion topic involved our Church’s traditions and beliefs. Some of the common occurring themes in all of the small groups were: potlucks, camping ministries, youth groups, and mission trips. My small group came up with a different one that no other group came up with – we liked that our church in the Western Jurisdictional community is able to go against the Book of Discipline’s wording in order to stand up for a cause that we believe will strengthen and grow the United Methodist Church.

The young people in the United Methodist Church are ALIVE and thriving all over the world. My generation has a passion for the church and often times we don’t know where to start. We are AWAKE and know that our actions we make within the Church are making an impact big and small. We are ALERT and know our generation of churchgoers is going to have the biggest impact for years to come. The church is dying because of our age group’s lack of interaction with the Church. If we are not able to get young people in the doors of our churches, we are missing out on the opportunity to utilize a vital resource that is right under our fingertips. We are begging to be used as examples of active young people from around the world.

Lastly we are ENTHUSIASTIC. Young people are working to revitalize the United Methodist Church. We love the church; we see the sense of community that brings us closer to God and to others. We want our friends and our acquaintances that don’t belong to a church community to ask us why we feel so happy, refreshed, and spiritually fed by a church community. We see the need for others to be able to understand that mountain top experience so that they can see God has work not just some, but for all of us.

The work we did in Las Vegas cannot end there. Sometimes “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” does not apply to work that needs to get done. Locally we can do so many things to reach out to young people. One of the things we can do is see if we have any young people serving on any committees – and if we don’t, we need to put some on committees. Young people can provide a fresh perspective to the atmosphere. We bring gifts that we often times haven’t seen in years that do the church wonders. In searching for a sense of community, what we want is not having fancy, big screen TVs and the hippest worship band who plays all the latest Christian hits. But rather churches that can provide us a sense of community, who can help us, grow and nurture our faith in God.

Amy Pazan is a member of Aldersgate UMC (Bellevue, Wash.)
and is a student at Central Washington University (Ellensburg, Wash.)

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  1. Thanks, Amy, for sharing your experience at Relevance X and offering us one more illustration of the great leadership your generation is already offering in our denomination and conference! I hope and trust it will be ok to engage in a bit of dialogue about a couple of the statements you made in your introduction.
    I find myself wondering about the claim that “time and again young people are left out of the conversation of what the future church needs or wants to be.” While I have no doubt there was a time when this was true, and that time is not long past, I will suggest it has, indeed, passed. We seem to keep banging that drum – the one about how we the both the present and future of both our church and Church in general hangs on the shoulders of our young leaders, and therefore we must move them up the ranks more quickly than ever before, accepting that they are ready now to tackle every position, from senior pastor of multiple pastor churches to leading our most important boards and agencies. And perhaps this is so – I am continually impressed and amazed by the maturity, grace and wisdom displayed by our young clergy and laypersons!
    At the same time, something in me feels we are following a typical human pattern by contenting ourselves with a change in the focus of an unhelpful, even oppressive pattern instead of abandoning the pattern entirely – in this case, ageism. I suspect there would be a great hue and cry if we were publishing articles about the need to hold spots in our leadership for the elders among our Elders; heck, there may well be some pushback from even so gentle an objection as this to the “you/we must be in leadership now” message. I am not sure a church that is accepting of our late 20-early 30’s folks and who there are in this moment of their lives necessarily makes sure they are placed in every leadership position. That strikes me as being a bit like taking the best athletic prospects and dropping them immediately into the major leagues, which has often resulted in destroying the future – theirs and the team’s – in favor of putting on a good show in the moment.
    Again, I hope this might be a conversation we could have on a conference level. Thanks for opening that door through your work and writing!

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