By Chassity Neckers
It has been said that the Millennial generation is the most studied and talked about demographic group today. As a fellow Millennial there are aspects of our generation that I see reflected in myself but there are also characteristics that I would rather not associate with. The Millennial generation seeks to promote change in our world though we are also a group that is still very much in need of guidance.
During the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, delegates and visitors in the 18–30(ish) age group gathered to talk about what issues in the Church were most important to us. While we, bright-eyed and still slightly optimistic, gathered to discuss what was important to our generation and our hopes for the Church, what became apparent was how we were not living into the NCJ conference theme of “Living Together…In Unity..Amid Diversity…for Ministry.”
You see, the one defining thing about my generation is that we, are an individualistic culture. It’s about “me” or “us.” We gathered because we desired to talk about what was important to us, only to realize that we were pushing ourselves further away from the Church.
I will admit, it is easy to look at the Church and say “this is where we are doing things wrong, and this is how I would fix this,” which can often be the case when a group of passionate, Jesus-loving young adults get together. However, we fail to accomplish the mission of the church if we are no more than “complainers”, “problem-seekers.” We found ourselves at a crossroads, trying so hard to set ourselves apart as a group of young adults in the church, only to find ourselves as the “token young adults” that our conferences could look at to pat themselves on the back that youth were involved in the business of the church.
“As a young adult it sometimes feels like we are on the outside of the church. People talk about young adults like we are not there or part of the church. We are not separate we are a part of the church and want to be involved,” echoed Emma McKirdy-Wilsey, Dakotas Conference.
We are more than a token, we are a voice. Throughout our discussions during North Central Jurisdictional Conference, we found that our voice will only be strengthened as we choose to humble ourselves, gather at the table with those from other generations, and seek to reach out for understanding, together. While there are many issues in the church that inspire our generation to action, I am sure that we are not the only generation to be considering such things. Topics such as culture of call, cost of seminary, need for mentors, and Church budget are universal, not individualistic.
"I have appreciated the opportunity to work in ministry with people of all generations. I have learned a great deal from their wisdom and experience. I know they have also learned from mine. It isn't just about growing as individuals though, it's about growing as a Body of Christ. I think authentic intergenerational relationships and collaboration foster great growth," shared Tyler Best, Indiana Conference.
“One of the coolest things for me was to be in a small group with someone who was 60, 66 and 70 (years of age) and to realize we all were connected, have things in common and are one church,” said Nathan Bader, 18, Dakotas Conference.
These past few days in Peoria, Ill. have reminded us that we are “one body, made up of many parts,” that what makes us unique, actually fits together perfectly to accomplish the mission of the church. I believe that all generations, not just Millennials, have a part to play in the future of The United Methodist Church, we just have to listen first.