The Token Young Person
Last Sunday, I was snagged after church by the president of the church's women's group. She asked if I'd be willing to be the new vice-president. I was rolling the thought around in my head - I don't really have the time, but I do want to be more involved. And about 15 seconds into my thought process, she speaks again - "We just think it would be good to have a young person in that position so we can get more of the younger women to participate." Ok... hmmm...
And then she continued some more... "I had someone else in mind, but she is too busy to do it. So I was looking around in church today for younger ladies, and saw you." Hmmm... ok...
I said I'd think about it, although by this time, I had an icky taste in my mouth. Her reply was "Yeah, think about it. But, we're voting for officers on Wednesday."
Even as she walked away, I knew I was going to say no. Partially because yes, I really do have too much on my plate already. But there was something else... and I didn't even fully realize what that was until today. I was being asked to be the token young person. I wasn't offered the position because I had something to offer the group. I wasn't offered the position because of my knowledge, skill, or ideas. I wasn't offered the position because I had something of value to them. I was offered it because I was under the age of 50.
Well, let me assure everyone out there - sticking a token young person in a vice-president, or even president, position is not going to draw in the younger people. 25 year old Sally over there with 2 young children grabbing at her apron strings is not going to think "Oh look - they let Brandi be VP. I want to go to the Women's meetings now!" It is not going to happen.
And... offering Gen X and Gen Y people a position as a token anything is a sign of disrespect. You're basically saying we have nothing of value, other than our age, to offer.
And this is one big reason you cannot get more young people involved. You (most likely unknowingly and unintentionally) insult us.
You May Think You're Open-minded...Another big reason... which is actually related to the above... you aren't openminded to our ideas. You don't accept that we truly do have something to offer you.
You claim "Oh! We're willing to change... we changed the date and time of our meetings. We let these young people know we're open to their ideas!" but the reality?
Young: "I think we should meet somewhere else... "
Old: "Why?! We have a perfectly good church!"
Y: "I think we should have a young adult Bible study."
O: "Oh, I don't think so. The young can learn a lot of us older ladies... and we can learn from the younger ladies!"
Y: "Maybe Sunday, before or after church, would be better for meetings since many ladies have young children that go to bed by 8pm."
O: "Oh, but that won't work for Suzanna, or Esther, or...[enter names of more older ladies]"
Y: "I think a Bible study that is more open to discussion would be more beneficial to young adults."
O: "Oh no... our Bible studies are already too long. They sometimes go for almost an hour! And no one wants to discuss what we've learned."
And of course, there is the usual...
"Let's pull out what we did last year and see if we can work with that."
"We can't do that.""We've never done it that way before."
"That won't work."
"That's a good idea, but...."
All of this is, once again, disrespecting us. You're letting us know without realizing it that you do not believe our ideas are worth listening to. You're saying we have nothing to offer.
If you want to get young people involved - and I mean if you really honestly want to - than you need to be willing to learn what makes them tick. You can change the date and time of your meetings and Bible studies all you want - we're not going to come if we're disrespected. You can say the words "we want you here... we're open to your ideas"... if your actions don't match your words, we're not going to believe you. And we're not going to participate because, again, we're being disrespected.
The first thing you need to do is take a deep look into your desires for your church group. Do you seriously want these young people involved? Do you honestly want these fresh new minds parading all over the group you've been attending religiously for years?
If you do, show them respect. If you don't, stop pretending you do.