Assembling the church with young adults at the table

On Tuesday I leave for the meeting of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America, the broadest assembly of my denomination, comprised of delegates from every region of the church from around the United States and Canada. It is the 207th regular session of the venerable assembly, and I never forget of the heritage in which delegates to this assembly stand.

I do not go as a delegate, however, I serve as temporary staff. For the last few years I have had the opportunity to facilitate the group of college students who come from the denominational colleges and the young adults who are sent from the regional synods. Although I cannot vote and I cannot address the assembly, my role of shepherding these students is an important one, and one which I love very much.

Amongst the students that go, the experience often does two things at the same time: It inspires them to continued and deeper involvement with the church, regardless of whether or not this leads to professional ministry; and it provides a rather high degree of disillusionment of the church. Each year there is something which comes to the assembly which causes significant disagreement, and can often lead to in-fighting. Not simply impassioned speeches, but simply behaving in a mean way toward those on the “other side” of the issue. But this is the church, a broken, sinful, holy, hands-of-Jesus institution with all of the contradictions that go along with that.

I love leading this group of young adults. They give me hope not only for the future of the church, but the church as it is now — after all, their presence is not just to observe, they participate in the life of the broadest assembly in the denomination with all of the excitement of provocative reports and recommendations as well as the mundane of budgets. Although the group changes each year, each year it is full of people who, although different in many ways, are passionate about the Gospel and passionate about the church.

While this is a busy time, it is also a time which I find refreshing and hopeful. I enjoy seeing other ministers with whom I already have a relationship, I enjoy meeting new people and building new relationships with people form all across the denomination. But perhaps most of all, I love shepherding this group of students, for they do far more for me than I can do for them. I can help them understand what is going on, they give me hope for the church.

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