In President Veazey’s recent address, “A Defining Moment,” he focused a significant portion of his sermon on the needs and ministry of the Community of Christ’s young adults. In his call to action, he spoke directly to this audience saying, “Young adults, the church needs you. We need you now. We need you to help us become who we are all yearning to become.” As I heard the address and listened to the exclusive invitation I could not help but appreciate being a young adult within this denomination. Now is a defining moment, we have an opportunity to be leaders in the Church.
As I travel through the church community, I continue to hear from young adults who feel as though local and world church leaders do not hear their thoughts and opinions. They say that they feel marginalized and that their voice is not being taken seriously. I have often heard young adults lament that, at a local level, they are not given the leadership opportunities they seek. There appears to be consensus that while they feel emotionally and socially connected to “their parents’ church,” young adults struggle to identify with a movement that they feel is becoming increasingly conservative.
Although I have compassion for my peers’ frustrations, I cannot honestly say that I share in their experience. In my home congregation I was encouraged to be an active participant in the weekly services, whether offering a testimony or sharing a ministry of music. I never felt ostracized because of my age; I only felt marginalized because of my own ignorance of scripture and church history. In adult Sunday school classes instructors continued to encourage me to ask questions and to contribute to the dialogue. The local pastor invited me, at age nineteen, to instruct the weekly Book of Mormon class. Within two years I accepted the call to the Office of Priest. Immediately following my ordination I joined World Service Corps and traveled to the Philippines.
In both my profession and congregational life the church has continuously invested time and resources in me. In 2002, shortly after completing graduate school, I was hired to be the Site Coordinator at the Kirtland Temple. The Church entrusted a twenty-five year old with the management and preservation of its oldest house of worship. The Kirtland Temple was, and continues to be, a site where the message of the church is shared with tens of thousands of people from around the world. I became the Church’s public face to the local secular and regional church communities, and was placed in a position to assist with fundraising and the construction of a new $5 million dollar visitor and spiritual formation center. I was encouraged to voice my opinions throughout the design, fundraising, and construction phases of the project. The very first event to take place during the center’s dedication was a reception for former Kirtland Temple volunteers and interns. The center would not have been possible without the contributions and support of young adults.
Outside of my experience at the Temple, I have witnessed young adults in the Kirtland congregation take on a variety of leadership roles. Four young adults have served on the pastoral team in the seven years I’ve been here. In October 2007 three young adults took the initiative to organize a weekly gathering for those seeking a place where they could share their deepest concerns for their family, health, and community; these Wednesday evening “devotions and discussions” continue today. Our young adults have organized garage sales, soup clubs, pancake breakfasts, Wii nights, book clubs, and a variety of other congregational activities that continue to meet our families’ and community’s needs.
Church leadership has continuously increased the financial resources devoted to young adults over the past decade. A number of my college peers took advantage of the job opportunities offered through Transformation 2000. As church employees, they enjoyed the opportunities of both providing ministry in their fields and completing continuing education courses that have proved useful both in and outside of their careers. Community of Christ also provides ample funding for World Service Corps – a program that sends young adults all over the world to experience the global church community. As a result of their WSC experience, many alumni have taken leadership positions within the church.
Each year, thousands of dollars is donated to the Community of Christ Leadership Program at Graceland University for scholarships and grants – this program provides young adults with education and leadership opportunities on which to build a foundation for future ministry and service within the Church. Additionally, the Church makes available internships that provide on-the-job training during the summer and winter months. The Kirtland Temple has benefited from the CCLP program as it provides summer interns who assist in the public programs offered at the historic sites.
I am not frustrated with the lack of opportunities given to the young adults of the church, but rather with the young adults who are so hesitant to commit themselves to the leadership opportunities within their congregation. It is my experience that young adults are often quick to criticize local leadership but slow to be “the change” they wish to see. Far to often we are happy to complain about dwindling attendance at Sunday services, but fail to attend regularly ourselves, let alone extended an invitation to another to join in worship. I am tired of listening to young adults’ excuses for not participating in congregational leadership and activities. The reality is that most simply prefer to sleep in on Sunday mornings.
I appreciated President Veazey’s invitation to the young adults to join church leadership in exploring “models of ministry, mission, and leadership [that will] open more doors for [their] participation.” I hope young adults will see this as a defining moment, and that they will become the leaders who create the communities of equality and justice they so often talk about.