I love that Dyson Vacuum commercial where the English guy talks about how he just wants things to work “properly”. In addition to my fascination with how the English constantly use the word “proper”, I totally agree with him and appreciate how he applied such a simple ideology to the world of domestic cleaning machinery. At the end of the day, we just want a vacuum that can create suction (notice my avoidance of a cheap joke… the Wayne’s World fan inside of me is dying to get out right now).
Anyway, vacuums. We often speak figuratively about things being “in vacuums”. I looked up that expression just to see if I could get a better grasp on the meaning behind it. An online dictionary describes it as meaning, “…without connection to other people or events.”
While many churches are doing great work to minister to young adults, many have also found themselves in a vacuum of sorts without one or more generations represented in their communities. In some cases, a church congregation may even be made up of only one, or possibly two, older generations. If anything, it is often the case that the leadership has fallen solely to these older generations. These older generations are often times in a vacuum, separated from other generations and carrying the mantle of leadership by themselves.
Obviously we don’t want this. What we have dedicated ourselves to in youth and young adult ministry is to advocate for the role of young people in the church. Let them be part of the community, let them help shape the culture of our churches, let them lead! But I wonder, in as much as we reject a vacuum-like approach to leadership by an older generation, would we also reject that same thing by a younger one?
What I’m asking is this: would we be in favor of letting college students and young adults lead the church (or even elements of the church) by themselves, why the older folks just sit back and watch?
Someone might argue that they are capable, which is obviously something I won’t argue against. Given a circumstance where young adults were forced to lead without the aid of other generations, I believe they can and would rise to the occasion. However, just because they can doesn’t unequivocally mean that they should. Given circumstances where they are invited to lead, I always think that it is done best along side of other generations of people.
But, as noted earlier, the same can be said of any generation. My goal in writing this is to remind us that isolating a generation of young leaders will be just as problematic as isolating any other generation of leadership. The ability to stand on our own two feet as leaders creates a powerful opportunity for healthy interdependence to take place between our church’s generations.
As we create opportunities for young adults to lead, let’s not forget this. Let’s not forget that the power of Christian community takes place in the unity of the Spirit and that even though our young people could lead by themselves, both we and they will benefit if they don’t have to.