With the average age of synod delegates hovering around 55, synod has never been considered a young person’s activity. Until this year.
Synod 2009 had six “youth observers,” students between 18 and 24 years old who watched the entire proceedings of synod, including sitting in on advisory committee meetings.
The day before synod ended, synod leaders sat down for dinner with the students to get their perspective on the weeklong meeting.
“The friendliness of the pastors to one another was really good to see—people just loving one another,” said Mariana Aviles of Chicago.
“It felt like we were being celebrated,” said Sarah Vanderkooy of Belnan, Nova Scotia. “So many people were glad that we were here.”
The youth observers expressed a desire to share their opinions on the synod floor.
“Especially during the discussion on faith formation and the future of the church, we weren’t asked at all [for our opinions],” said Amy Vander Vliet of Alexandria, Virginia. “It felt odd to hear people talking about us without even asking us.”
“We don’t have all the wisdom that you do, but I do think it’s important that you realize that we do have an opinion,” said Vanderkooy.
Dee Recker, the denomination’s director of synodical services, drew up the proposal for having youth observers.
She said she was pleased with the young people’s reaction to their time at synod. “They seem so happy to be here,” she said. “They really are energized about this. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Recker also would like to see the youths in an advisory role in the near future. “We can learn from these young adults, the future leaders of the church,” she stated.