Though their percentage is few as compared to other groups, the young delegates at this General Conference want their voice to be heard. And they are working hard to make that happen.
No delegate younger than 30 wanted to miss their briefing Tuesday morning before the official opening of General Conference 2012. As early as 10 a.m., they filled Rooms 15 and 16 of the Tampa Convention Center.
Under the leadership of staff from the Division on Ministries with Young People of the Board of Discipleship, 53 young people from various annual conferences throughout the denomination met to listen to each other in deep conversation and encourage each other in critical thinking and biblically informed processes for considering all General Conference businesses.
In silence, then sharing and insights, they voiced in small groups their opinions, desires and thoughts around two major questions about the past and future of the denomination: “Describe a time when you have witnessed a United Methodist Church at its best and give one exciting example of what the United Methodist Church could look like in 10 years if we start laying the foundation right now at General Conference 2012.”
In his circle group, Paul Sweet, 18, from the Upper New York Annual (regional) Conference, focused more on the mission work of the denomination, which is capable of doing much good throughout the world.
“It was amazing to see how quickly UMC responded…and will continue to respond for years as we clean up the damage,” he said, remembering the help that came after the Southern New-York flooding last year. For this General Conference, this pastor’s kid can’t wait to see how it will shape the future of the Church.
“It seems that we are doing a wonderful job elsewhere and I can only hope that we can learn from elsewhere and apply that to the United States as well,” he said.
If given the opportunity, Sweet said he would educate our local churches because he sees how much the United Methodist churches seem to lack knowledge about programs such as the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Volunteers in Mission.
“So if we truly grow our connection, I can only see that the church is going up,” he said. That means to him a more equipped church to do its ministry and serve the people throughout the world and be able to make more disciples for Jesus Christ.
At the end of the briefing, first-time delegates connected with “senior ones” as peer prayers partners for mutual support and ongoing encouragement throughout General Conference.
The briefing was led by Earlie Pasion and Will Green, who co-chair the Division on Ministries with Young People. They assured the young people that the greatest resource available to them here as young delegates is their lounge in Room 17 where they can gather, enter into conversation and use the space to do all the critical things they need to do so the voice of young delegates are heard through the process.