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Lost it at synod this year.

No, it’s not what you think. I wasn’t mad. I was overjoyed. But it showed too much.

“The press” should stay objective and professional. We should keep our heads down, stay out of the way, and blend in with the furniture during debate.

But when Synod 2010 adopted the recommendation to upgrade the status of youth observers to young adult advisers at future synods (see p. 36), I hooted and jumped clear out of my chair. Thankfully I was holed up in the newsroom at the time, so I embarrassed myself only before my colleagues.

In the machinery of synod, adviser status is a significant step up from that of observer. Observers speak only in synod’s advisory committees. In the large group gatherings where the decisions get made, they have no voice. All the youth observers could do was watch older folks debating and deciding issues.

Although advisers may not vote, they may address the body and so contribute their perspective, wisdom, and insight. Since our youths have the same Holy Spirit the synodical delegates do, theirs is an important voice—one that synod should hear before making decisions that affect all of us. This latest development is one more important step on a journey that began just last year, when the first panel of young adults joined synod as observers.

This issue is close to my heart. In an editorial four years ago (“Youth Leaders,” May 2006), I shared with you my dream for inviting youths to exercise their gifts of leadership in our churches and denomination:

We could appoint [youths] as advisers. They could be “extended the privilege of the floor” (church-speak) without necessarily being given full voting privileges. . . .

Maybe they could also form a caucus that would give advice and recommendations to the assembly.

About that caucus I was hoping for: this year’s youth observers dreamed up the idea of a biennial CRC youth summit held before synod the same way the Multiethnic Conference is held in conjunction with synod every other year. The summit would draw young adults from across the denomination. It would deliberate in the same way that synod deliberates. It could even send communications and, possibly, recommendations to synod itself. The young adults hope to hold the first summit in 2012. I wish them Godspeed.

Listening to our younger members is long overdue. However, unless similar initiatives happen on the regional and local levels, the steps already taken will be mere tokenism.

Unless classes and church councils step to the plate and follow synod’s lead, younger members will remain disenfranchised and marginalized. Worse, we’ll stay deaf to voices and wisdom that the Spirit has granted for our edification, growth, and well-being.

Granted, some churches already salt their committees and ministries with youth reps. That’s a good step. But having a young adult or two in the room keeps their voices scattered. Best to add a process like the summit, where they can confer with each other, then address our governing bodies with a common voice. That will help us discern much more clearly what the Spirit is telling our church(es) through them.

As the old warhorse Paul told the young buck Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Tim. 4:12).

God has poured out his Spirit on our young people. Let’s pay attention to what they have to say.

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