In our ministries, the stakes are high
The streets of Ferguson, Missouri, were a chaos that included protestors and clergy. Thursday evening, August 14, I joined with my colleagues in the Diocese of Missouri and clergy from around the region to walk down Florissant St. to the site where Michael Brown died. What struck me was the disconnect. Church people walked in an orderly line while young people from Ferguson darted in and out of the crowd.
A photo from the Washington Post showed a tense moment later that week. The Rev. Willis Johnson of Wellspring United Methodist Church is shown confronting an angry 18-year-old, Joshua Wilson, in the streets of Ferguson. The minister embraced the young man to keep him from rushing at the police. Johnson and Wilson had never met before.
I have thought that the church needs to engage young adults for the church’s sake. If the church wants to continue to exist, we need young adults. Walking in Ferguson over the past weeks has convinced me that the stakes are higher than I imagined before. I watched church leaders trying to initiate relationships with young adults in the midst of chaos. Disconnected young adults had no reason to walk with church leaders, to join rallies and meetings with clergy and officials. Many young adults only knew the chaos of the streets.
If we believe the church is the leadership institute for the Kingdom of God, we need to recruit the next generation of leaders. Young adults need church to be an effective community, a place where hope and change are made real. Our communities need church to be a place where the generations engage with one another and work together for change. The church has been an effective vehicle of social change in past generations. If that work is to continue, we need to meet and engage young adults in communities across the country, before we encounter one another in the streets.