Advocating for Young People’s Representation at the Central Conference Session
Central Conference sessions can seem intimidating and scary. Adults speak on the floor debating many different issues being faced by the church. The parliamentary procedures, also known as Robert’s Rules, can sound very formal, serious and complicated.
It is no wonder a lot of young people prefer to stay away from these conference sessions that make decisions for the whole church. Young people have the energy, passion, and creativity to contribute meaningfully in this process of Christian conferencing. The problem is, they don’t usually get a chance to participate in the highest decision-making body of the church in their country or central conference.
How can young people enjoy broader representation and inclusion at the Central Conference sessions?
Within the past decade, the youth and young adult organizations in the Philippines worked hard to get more young people to sit as delegates at the Central Conference session.
The national conferences of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines (UMYFP) and the United Methodist Young Adult Fellowship in the Philippines (UMYAFP) passed resolutions that called on annual conferences to send at least one youth and one young adult to the Central Conference session. This resolution was initially passed in 2010 and was reaffirmed in subsequent years.
But it didn’t stop there. The leaders of the UMYFP and UMYAFP sent copies of the resolution to the bishops and to the leaders of the annual conferences. Youth and young adult leaders also attended their own annual conference sessions and when they had a chance, they read the resolution before the entire annual conference body.
Youth and young adults are well integrated into the ministries of the church in the annual conferences, and the youth and young adult leaders built relationships with the adult leaders of the church. As they got recognized for their work, they also built support for their bid to increase young people’s representation at the Central Conference session.
In December 2016, 18 youth and about 40 young adult delegates participated in the regular session of the Philippines Central Conference. (In the Philippines, the age range of youth is 12-24 and young adults is 24-40 years old.)
The voices of young people are important in the decision-making process of the church. Young people of the church are affected by major decisions made at conference sessions. In the long run, as these young people rise to become leaders of the church, they will face the consequences of all the decisions made by the church today.