Some people have been critical of the lack of youth and young adults on the ELCA's LIFT Task Force...a group that is studying the "eco-system" of the church and making recommendations for the future. Though it's frustrating being the youngest member of the task force, I'm grateful that, in many ways, the real work of the LIFT initiative doesn't take place in board rooms and conference calls. It occurs throughout the entire eco-system; in congregations, homes, synod groups, colleges, camps, etc. We all bear responsibility for discerning what God is calling us to be and do in the future.
I've enjoyed several opportunities in the last few months to be about this kind of conversations. The most recent of these conversations took place at the NE Iowa Synod Lutheran Youth Organization Assembly in Mason City, IA. This event is near and dear to my heart, as it was the site of the first assembly I attended as a member of the synod LYO board 16 years earlier.
For my part, the pieces I used to talk about the LIFT Task Force were similar to the ones incorporated at the Oregon LYO Assembly. One of my favorite exercises is, after an Acts 2 Bible study, to ask small groups of kids to make three lists.
- Essential elements of a 21st century church
- Helpful, but not essential, elements
- Elements that are neither helpful nor essential
Here are some of the themes that emerged from the "essential ~ helpful ~ neither" activity.
- God's Word and faithful people are required to "be church"; but a church building isn't.
- Leaders were considered essential; Pastors were considered helpful.
- Sacraments are central to a faith community.
- Money, music, food, and programs are helpful in proclaiming the gospel, but not essential.
- Several groups lifted up the importance of acts of service and outreach.
- Technology was considered helpful, but the overuse or idolization technology is not.
- Robes, fancy clothes, and sermon notes were popular items on the neither list.
It was a joy to be with these young people and their adult leaders. They had lots of fun talking, learning, swimming, singing, dancing, and playing together. I remain pleased and grateful that so many young people have a deep and genuine care for the future of our church. I pray that we continue to make room for their voices to be heard in our congregations, synods, and throughout the whole church.