As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
Attending synod is an exciting opportunity, especially as a young adult representative. You get to learn more about how the CRC works, you get to meet new people and form new relationships, and you get to network with influential leaders in the denomination. But the best part is, you get to be a part of CRC history as the members of synod make their decisions, and your voice becomes a part of those decisions.
But synod can also be intimidating. More than likely, you’re among the youngest people in attendance. There are a lot of names, places, committees, acronyms, rules, and procedures thrown at you that are probably unfamiliar. And then there’s that moment when you want to step up to the microphone, and everyone’s watching. You can see yourself on the screen as you speak to more than 100 people, all of whom are probably older and more experienced at this than you are.
I’ve been to synod twice as a young adult representative, and both times, I’ve had those feelings. I’ve wondered, “How will these people respond to what I have to say?” Along the way, I’ve found a few tricks that helped me get the most out of my synod experience. Here are a few:
Don’t Focus on the Demands
It’s easy to get caught up in all the rules of synod. The nice thing about being a young adult representative, though, is that there are only two things you are not allowed to do:
- You don’t get to vote
- You don’t get to propose any motions
Beyond that, you’re not much different than a regular delegate. That means you may participate in discussions, assist the other members as needed, and help with any additional work that comes up in your advisory committee.
My first year as a young adult representative, I was part of the education and candidacy committee. As we went through the different items we had been assigned, I realized one of our recommendations needed to be updated with information that wasn’t in the printed agenda. I ended up helping another person on the committee to draft a new set of recommendations that included the extra information. Those recommendations were eventually adopted by synod.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
The fact is, the delegates want to hear your opinion. They will listen to you if you say something, and they will explain whatever you’re confused about. And if the microphones seem intimidating, that’s OK. Even seasoned delegates get nervous on the main floor of synod. Don’t feel bad if you have to write down what you want to say. It gets easier the more times you speak. Both years I attended synod, I had several delegates come up and thank me for being willing to speak up.
Take Lots of Notes
It’s a habit that has followed me ever since I was elected class secretary in high school: I take notes at every meeting I go to. It helps me follow what’s going on, and sometimes I notice things when I go back through my notes that I didn’t notice before. When I went over my notes from my first year at synod, I was struck by the number of times we prayed for each other. Even on the main floor of synod, there were times when we stopped our discussion and prayed.
Of course, my notes from my second year at synod were much more detailed. I had a better sense of what was going on, so I could keep track of more things that took place. During our advisory committee meetings, I was better able to contribute to the discussions because I had my own record of what happened.
Also, when you return home, there will be people who bombard you with questions about what happened at synod. A great way to answer all those questions is simply to give a few highlights from your notes.
Know What Part of the Agenda to Focus On
Let’s be honest, no one reads the entire printed agenda. My first year at synod, I skimmed through most of the reports and lists of names before reading the material my advisory committee would be discussing. My second year, I skipped over most of the agenda and only read the material having to do with my committee and any potentially controversial issues. Based on both years, here’s what I would say are the parts of the agenda to focus on:
- The overtures: These often will give you a clue about what issues could cause some controversy. Check out the relevant materials and see if the overtures raise any concerns you share. Make a note of those in your printed agenda. That way, you can explain why you agree or disagree when you get to synod.
- The materials that your advisory committee will discuss: After you find out which advisory committee you’ve been assigned to, check that committee’s link on the synod website. There you’ll find an outline of everything you’ll be discussing. Anything you need from the agenda, plus any other information you might need, will all be listed on that outline.
Be a Pain
More accurately, speak up often, even if you don’t think the matter has anything to do with you. Remember that God placed you on a specific committee with a specific set of gifts and perspectives. What you have to say might be exactly what that committee needs to hear.
Sometimes the delegates will start discussing other issues and will need someone to bring them back to the matter at hand. Or they’ll need someone to point out something they overlooked. And if there’s something you feel strongly about, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. If anything, you’ll get them to think beyond the present issues.
Don’t Sit with the Same People All the Time
It’s tempting to sit down with fellow committee members or the other young adult representatives at breaks or meals. You’ve spent a lot of time with these people, and you might become good friends with some of them. That’s great. The unity of the Church often happens outside of committee. But don’t hang out with these people all the time. There are so many opportunities to connect at synod. Make sure you take some time to meet new people. Those connections can lead to great conversations about the work of the church beyond just synod.
A New Experience
I’ve been a part of the CRC for as long as I can remember, but there was still quite a bit about how the denomination works that I didn’t know about. Being a young adult representative to synod allowed me to see how the various parts work together. I shared my perspective on issues I care about, and I formed connections with delegates and church leaders from all across North America.
If you’re curious about how to become a young adult representative, talk to your pastor or a member of your church council. Chances are they can point you in the right direction.