For the past 12 years I’ve had the privilege of working for The Seventh-day Adventist denomination. My prayer is that I continue to work for them until Jesus comes back or I die, whichever comes first. I truly love this global community of faith; that said there are occasions that I become flummoxed by some of the things I am seeing and hearing within my church.
Recently I’ve been reading the biography of J.N. Loughborough by Dr. Brian Strayer. I have thoroughly enjoyed the read, it might be my favorite of the Adventist Pioneer Series thus far.
As I’ve read almost two-thirds of the book however I have found myself getting sideways on an issue…
The lack of inclusion of young adults at the highest levels of leadership within our church!
I have heard, ever since I accepted Jesus and started hanging-out around Seventh-day Adventist leaders the statement, “We need to make sure our young people have a voice within their church.”
Here is what I would say to how well that has gone: if young people truly had a voice in this church, a voice that anyone was listening to, a voice with a vote, then there would be a more diverse spectrum of ages amongst our church leadership at every level.
As it stands now though, at the highest level of leadership, The General Conference, there are currently no administrators under the age of 50…and I would venture to guess that there are not even any under the age of 60, if any of you are I apologize :). But it is not just at the General Conference level, The North American Division has the same problem; we have some leadership in their 50’s, but no one at a significant leadership level is below the age of 50 to my knowledge. The same is true within our Union leadership.
I got sideways as I was reading the Loughborough biography because I am reading stories about young adults that are in great positions of influence within our church…oh and when I say young adult, I’m not talking about 40’s and 50’s, I’m talking about 20’s and 30’s, even a few in their late teens. Presidents, GC executive committee members, top theologians, General Conference sent evangelists.
Reading these stories makes me so proud of our early church and so disappointed with our current church.
Young in leadership is just something that is not seen anymore…
Something that is not even given a chance to be seen or experienced at any level other than the local church and maybe, just maybe a local conference or two, at least here in the United States.
There is much talk about giving the young a voice, but folk the young need more than a voice they need to be in on the decision making process, they need at times to be the actual decision makers.
Let me ask what I believe is a very logical question: If the church is trying to figure out ways to retain the youth and young adults of our church would it not make sense for the young to be deciding what actions are going to be taken to reach & retain those demographics? Every successful business in the world has figured this out, why can’t the church?
Hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that we should put those of the older ilk out to pasture. We are a multi-generational church, so we should have multi-generational leadership…AT EVERY LEVEL!
People like Pastor Rodlie Ortiz should be sitting at any table at the highest levels of this church that are visioning and strategizing for church growth, if you don’t believe me ask Pastor Dwight Nelson. Pastor Anthony Wagenersmith I believe would be an asset to the Biblical Research Institute. He has a brilliant theological mind, before we were even out of seminary he was a grad assistant that was delivering lectures to other graduate students. Gina Creek, is a gifted writer, that writes in a unique voice; she should be at the Adventist Review or Signs of the Times or writing copy for The GC. Pastor Taj Pacleb is one of the most gifted traditional evangelists I’ve ever heard, why aren’t we tapping him for global evangelistic events or media posts? Pastor Benjamin Lundquist is in my opinion the most innovative youth and young adult leader out there right now. Every youth and young adult leader should spend time with him. These are just a few, the list could go on and on!
My point is the young adults are out there, out there ready to lead at the highest levels. Just like they were in the first 50 years of our church.
But their church isn’t inviting them to even consider such a step.
Their church, our church, my church just keeps talking about giving them a voice…
but what good are their voices if they are not being heard in the rooms making the decisions?
If their voices don’t actually have a vote when the decisions are made?
Please church that I love, be a church that truly represents ALL of us! Give us more than a voice!