Youngest delegate gets permission to skip school

Technically, Ryan Bostdorf is skipping school.

He’s doing so with permission from his parents and teachers, however, because he’s getting an education he simply couldn’t get in class.

At 14, Bostdorf is the youngest delegate elected to attend the top legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church. He is one of nearly 1,000 people from around the world elected to the 2004 General Conference.

“I thought by me coming to General Conference it’s saying that youth want to be involved, and want to be able to make decisions, and not just sit back and let the adults make everything,” said Bostdorf, who is a member of Halifax (Pa.) United Methodist Church, where his father serves as the associate youth pastor and his mother is choir director.

The delegate from Central Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference is spending long hours in committee meetings, wrestling with the wording of proposals and petitions that will help shape the future of the 10 million-member denomination. From homosexuality to global missions, he’s tackling some of the toughest issues facing the world wide church.

“I love sitting there and thinking that I have power to do things for my church,” Bostdorf said. “I love how everyone from around the world can come together and just be one body and unite and make the great decisions that they’re going to.”

Although he’s missing his ninth-grade classes, Bostdorf said he still has plenty of homework. After the late-night committee meetings, he starts in on his school studies. He’s also required to write a report about his experience at General Conference.

While this is no vacation, he said he’s glad to be serving his church in this way. When his duties as a delegate feel overwhelming, he relies on faith and prayer to God.

“I know that he’s always around me and if I do have trouble, I can just talk to him,” he said.  “I’m talking to him a lot because it is very overwhelming, but I’m getting through it.”

*Riemland is a correspondent and freelance producer for United Methodist News Service

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