Empowering the Voices of Young People in the Church
By Lota Mae Felizardo
During the Young Leaders Summit, there were sessions about the role of young people in the United Methodist Church, how our voices can be and must be heard; how we can cultivate our vision for the church; how to conduct effective planning and implementation of programs; and how to help raise fund and manage financial assets. Other speakers spoke about timely issues in the society that we, as Methodist young people, need to be aware of and act on. Some of these are technology, social media, internet and ministry; peace-building and reconciliation; and young people and human sexuality.
However, the session on Young People’s Voices in the United Methodist Church captured my attention the most. It was discussed in a broad and local context. It is not easy for young people to be heard, especially if they do not know how to speak up, what to speak up, when to speak up and whom to speak with.
A few months after I attended the Summit, I felt that I failed to make my own voice heard. I became silent. I chose to. Later I realized I was wrong to stay silent. It was because I expected too much from myself and how others will respond. But because the Lord is good, I learned not to the silence drown me.
In the past annual conference session, I stood up in front of the workers and lay members of our annual conference and delivered the youth address. I was afraid that what I was about to do will condemn me and the young people. But I knew that God prepared their hearts and minds. After delivering the youth address, I felt relieved and knew that we, the young people, can look forward to a better situation.
It is not easy for young people to be heard, especially if they do not know how to speak up...
The voices of young people are not communicated only through words, but also through our actions and our very own presence. Now, in our local church, I work with our church workers to encourage young people to express their voices by taking part in the music ministry, which was discontinued for five months. I also started attending council meetings as much as I can because I wanted to listen and raise my questions and opinions regarding the matters being discussed. I wanted to let my fellow youth know about church matters. These may seem like small steps, but they can be a great avenue to make our voices heard.
Truly, in the absence of young people’s voice, it would be difficult to imagine the possibilities for our church. I know that the lessons we learned from the Young Leaders Summit will help us become effective leaders.
Lota Mae Felizardo, from the Bicol Philippines Annual Conference, attended the Young Leaders Summit on Nov 2016 held at Subic Bay, Philippines.