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What Young People Want from the Church – Douglas Powe and Jasmine Smothers

Young adults seek opportunities to lead

Wait! Wait!

Young people are often sidelined in church. Yet, everywhere else, they are challenged to lead. Consciously or unconsciously, older generations in the church send a message to young adults that their turn for leadership is coming in the future (Not Safe for Church, p. 71). However, this message of waiting is not being well received by young adults who want to share their gifts with the church now.

Are these young adults being presumptuous about their gifts for leadership? Should we make them wait in line? Given the demands for ministry in the 21st century, we do not believe so. You be the judge, but do not wait too long as you risk losing gifted leaders who will seek a place elsewhere to use their gifts.

Young adults want the same opportunity to succeed and fail in leadership as those in the older generations did. Young adults are not naïve in believing they will get it right every time, but neither did those in older generations. Congregations must be honest about the fact that many individuals in older generations are where they are today in leadership because they were given an opportunity. Young adults want this same opportunity. Many of them are in leadership positions outside of congregations where they have an opportunity to fail and succeed. Congregations that extend the same opportunities as others receive the gift of creative and generative leadership.

Young adults seek genuine collaboration in moving congregations forward. For most young adults, it is not about doing it their way. They want to collaborate with others so that it truly is a decision in which we all, not just a few, have a stake. The fear that allowing young adults to assume leadership means older generations will be out of the loop is often unfounded. For many young adults, leadership is not about who is the boss; it is about discerning where God wants to lead the congregation.

The truth is that young adults are seeking an opportunity to lead so they can live into their commitment to follow God's lead and help others to do the same.

The Rev. F. Douglas Powe Jr., 50, holds the James C. Logan Chair in Evangelism and is professor of urban ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary.. The Rev. Jasmine Smothers, 32, is associate director of connectional ministries in the North Georgia Conference. They are co-authors of Not Safe for Church: Ten Commandments for Reaching New Generations (Abingdon Press). She graduated from Candler School of Theology in 2008.