Every term of leadership contains challenges. The church is always in a period of discernment - as it should be. Context is always changing. New questions of discernment constantly emerge.
This is why I think one of the greatest gifts a leader can provide is a display of non-anxious presence. A non-anxious presence is rooted in confidence that God will provide what the church needs to faithfully discern and make the necessary changes.
I was reminded of this at a workshop hosted by Emerging Voices Initiative (EVI). This young adult initiative began in November 2015, when Mennonite Church Canada faced a substantial donation revenue shortfall and was forced to reduce staff and program. Their concern for the church resulted in considerable conversation and a commitment to engage in the work of the Future Directions Task Force. Their enthusiastic participation in the issues facing the church is heartening for me as it is for many people.
One of the questions the EVI leaders are asking workshop attendees is: "What do you want to say to the leaders of Mennonite Church Canada?"
This is the gift being offered. For leaders interested in the thoughts of others it is a precious gift whenever people express themselves.
One of the first responses to this question has reinforced my determination to resist fear and panic in these changing times. The young adult voice walked up to the microphone and after glancing in my direction said, "the church will be okay.”
Indeed! What a message for leadership to hear: The church will be okay. It is both a message of hope and chastisement.
What message do we communicate to our youth and young adults when we express panic and fear about the state of the church? The underlying statement of fear and panic is that we do not trust our youth and young adults to carry on the faith.
Confidence in our youth and young adults would echo the statement offered at the EVI workshop. The church will be okay, because God is at work in our youth. The church will be okay because our youth and young adults are dreaming dreams and seeing visions. God is at work, even if as leaders, we don't always perceive it.
A confidence in God expects the Spirit of God to be at work beyond our comprehension. A confidence in God anticipates that our youth and young adults will see things we do not see.
The church of the future is the church informed by the past but embracing the developing expression of the leaders forming in our midst.
I am confident that our faith is finding new expression.
Open yourself up to possibilities not seen before: possibilities articulated and envisioned by our youth and young adults.
Upcoming EVI Workshops and locations in Nov./Dec.