Where are Young Adult Voices in the #CallToAction?

#UMC Restructure lacks young adult legislative voices

One of the recommendations from the Call To Action is the re-distribution of funds to young adults (those under 35 years old), $5million dollars of the first amount of money saved to go to them. That’s a great gesture and will certainly be put to good use. It makes me wonder, though, if the Call To Action values ministry to young adults rather than ministry with young adults. Are we included in the conversation or are we just being “ministered to?”

Young adult delegate Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger from Northern Illinois and I took a look and here’s the disturbing numbers that we found.

The Connectional Table, which populated the Call To Action teams, has three young adult members on the team. That’s awesome and I’m glad they are involved in the highest perpetual body in the church alongside the Council of Bishops. So, excluding staff, three out of 49 members would make the Young Adult percentage on the Connectional Table as 6.12%. We’ll set that as a baseline.

So the Call To Action committee, which did the primary work of the Call to Action movement, has one young adult member on the team (Ben B.) with 15 other members. That’s pretty good,  not representative of the actual number of young adults, but still respectable under the small size of the team. That would make the Young Adult percentage on the Call To Action steering team at 6.25%.

Now’s the bad news. The Interim Operations Team, which crafted the majority of the Call to Action legislation, has zero young adult members out of 12. So for the actual crafting of the legislation, putting all the vision into play, the young adult input and decision-making ability is exactly zero.

So Young Adults are seen, heard, but not involved in the writing of the actual legislation for the Call To Action. Bummer.

Now the good news: You have a choice! The response to the CallToAction put together by the Alternative Structure team has four young-adult co-signers to the legislation, out of 13. Thus, 30% of the Alternative Structure co-signers are Young Adults. Even when you include the extended team that co-wrote it but didn’t co-sign the legislation, you gain one young adult and make it five out of 32, or 15.62%.

I think there’s little wonder then that the Alternative Structure appeals to me as a young adult:

  • It has a cautionary approach to authority by removing the Board of Directors
  • it includes a diversity of voices by reducing the number of boards but still including at least 30 people on them.
  • it keep the Methodist values of accountability in our strong connectional structure

All of which (a suspicion of authority, an appreciation of diversity, and enforcement of accountability…not to mention rebelliousness to bad ideas) are certainly United Methodist values in general but are also hallmarks of my generation of young adults in particular.

Where are the Young Adult voices in the Call To Action? When it comes to putting pen onto paper, the Alternative Structure includes their voices at every level of theory to organizing to writing. The Call To Action legislation has young adult voices at a lower percentage at the theory and organizing levels, but not the actual writing of the legislation.

It may or may not matter. From our research and head-counting, there is only ONE young adult on the General Administration committee at General Conference, which is the committee that handles the bulk of the CTA legislation. Out of 54 members, that’s 1.85% which is far less than the representation on either the Connectional Table or the Call To Action committee. So while young adult delegates will get to participate on the floor, in the back-and-forth consideration of the two proposals their involvement will be limited.

  • Consideration:  While I recognize this can be due to self-selection (both of the young adults from my annual conference delegation chose other committees), young adults are usually lower on the list and thus the General Administration committee would have been taken by other delegates beforehand.
  • Consideration: the one young-adult is Rachel, and she’ll be louder and more articulate than half the committee, so it may even out. :-)

Now we can go down the line and point out how many people are ethnic on each team, how many women, how many central conference people, how many hipster mac users, and that would cause some back-and-forth between which team is more representative of that particular group. But if the voices of young adults are most important to you, the Alternative Proposal includes them at every level and it shows in the values reflected in the proposal.



  • Special thanks to Rachel and another good friend for helping with the facts and figures and inspiration.
  • Full disclosure: I am one of the co-signers to the Alternative Proposal and include myself (I’m 32 years old) in the above numbers.
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  1. SeanO says

    There are some amazing UMC leaders whom I love dearly; they have been amazing mentors and sources of inspiration for me. Still, I generally think that the leaders who have presided over the UMC’s decline are NOT the best people to lead it into health.

    Knowing how people are selected to serve in general church leadership roles, I’m not surprised that so few young adults were involved (let’s not even talk about youth…). If our denomination’s “best & brightest” can’t make room for new people & new voices on the Interim Operations Team [which is supposed to “be a catalyst for implementing significant change in denominational structures, policies, practices, and leadership”], how on earth do they think they’ll lead the denomination in making space for new people & new voices at the local church level?

    • John Adams says

      One of the problems of youth vs elders, is the lack of understanding of what learning from and respecting one’s elders is really about. With the past few generations, in-general, is the 0-65 need of teenagers to burn rubber out of their parent’s nest, to seeing what they can get away with in life. In the land where we once had generations of family trades/businesses, and the apprenticeship of getting there, we lost that to corporate buy-outs of mom and pop. It’s hard to have apprenticeships when fewer build-it yourself businesses exist, including family farms, and computer-based jobs are the rule of thumb. As for respecting your elders and realizing that until about 35, a person is still experimenting with trial and error in life. Elders are simply those adults who are trying to teach young adults and teenagers how to build roads to success, after they learned from all their errors. I was an Infantry Sgt. when I was a teenager, yet I had to respect and learn from my elders, inside the military and out. As for the church, just as school teachers learn from their students, religion students can be inspired by the church elders in a partnership, as long as youth are taught how to respect their elders. With today’s parenting, so many distractions from the market-place. make it so hard for parents and the church, to establish the important relationships and understanding of the importance of eldership. Life cannot proceed without eldership, as much as today’s youth are trying to live without it, a go directly to new cars and the corner office. Somehow, to get young people to save the church membership and direction. Survey TV – the levels of violence, the product distractions, and the reality shows which confuses our kids, that life is about voting people off the island or being a Jackass.

  2. JMB3 says

    “I generally think that the leaders who have presided over the UMC’s decline are NOT the best people to lead it into health.”

    SeanO, if you printed that on a t-shirt, I’d buy it!

  3. Mike Ratliff says

    Another important statistic, as of the most recent registration information, there are 41 young voting delegates (under 35) for this General Conference. There are another 42 young reserve delegates.

  4. says

    I think it’s important to know that the Div. on Ministries with Young People (the global UMC ministry focused on young people) was completely left off the original schematic for general church structure. It was not until after this error was caught (by the young people serving on the CT) that $5 million was set aside from the $60 million for young adults.

    I struggle to see how the CTA is forward thinking when there are few young people (the people the church is supposedly being restructured for…) involved in the process.

  5. Kirk VanGilder says

    As a former young adult, I endorse this post! From my own involvement in the first Exploration in 1990 and the 1992 Student Forum where the rebirth of the Student Movement catalyzed, I’ve often bemoaned how marginalized and trivialized anyone under 35 is within the UMC. It’s a sign of a truly messed up institution when it actively marginalized the generation rising into socio-cultural influence.


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