Students Bring Fresh Voices and Viewpoints to Discovery
Four high school students who attended a Discovery event in Phoenix, Arizona, were pleasantly surprised by the experience. "The most surprising part was how much our say in the big picture for the RCA mattered," says Alfred Wilson.
The RCA has been holding Discovery events in locations across the United States and Canada as part of a process of determining Reformed Church ministry and mission priorities over the next 10 years.
Alfred and the other three students—JoHanna Poertner, Bronwyn Lancaster, and Sophia Palacia—all said they would encourage other young people to attend a Discovery event. "It was cool how we got to be a part of developing the future," says Sophia. "It was also good leadership training, learning a planning process."
JoHanna agrees. "It's important for us as youth to be a part a part of something bigger than ourselves and speak into the future ministries we will lead," she says.
"It has helped me grow as a leader and given me the opportunity to build relationship with others in the RCA," adds Bronwyn. "It also taught me that my home church isn't The Church and my generation isn't The Generation—we all work together.
"Also, through Project Timothy, I have learned that there are youth in our denomination that don't have youth groups at their churches and this is a great way for them to connect with other youth." Project Timothy is an RCA student leadership development program that uses a mission experience as a tool to strengthen leadership skills.
Alfred says, "We're the next generation of adults, so we have to be ready to guide the youth as well as make sure there is an inheritance of faith for the up and coming youth."
The students agree that it's important for the wider church to hear what young people have to say. Bronwyn says, "The older generation has great wisdom to share and valuable traditions to honor. We have new ideas and areas of value. If we only acknowledge older generations and don't bring in new ideas we risk not being relevant to future generations. But if we work together we can grow in tradition and wisdom while remaining relevant."
Alfred believes the church needs to hear what younger people have to say "in order to relate and have an impact on youth and adolescents."
JoHanna says, "We're developing a 10-year plan and we will become adults during that time. The outcome of these events will affect us as adults. Also, we are part of the church and bringing our voice to this helps develop a plan for multiple generations."
She believes the Discovery process is important and that "anyone who has a voice and wants to be heard should be a part of the process. When the night was over, I was really excited for our future and felt honored to be a part of it."
"I feel super blessed that I've been able to be a part of the process and see the growth from Conversations to Discovery, "says Bronwyn. (Conversations, an assembly of representatives from across the RCA that was held in Orlando, Florida, in February, laid the groundwork for Discovery events.) "Seeing and hearing that the same themes keep coming up is awesome! It is obvious that God has a clear call for our denomination!"
Alfred says he's looking forward to following the discussions at the next RCA General Synod about the RCA's ministry priorities for the next 10 years. At Synod 2013, delegates will act on recommendations of the General Synod Council based on what has been learned through the 2011-13 denominational discernment process, including Discovery events. "It was something we were talking about at the [Discovery] meeting so I think we should all see what the outcome of everyone gathering will be," he says.
Alfred, Bronwyn, Sophia, and JoHanna are the members of the High School Leadership Team of Christ's Community Church in Glendale, Arizona. Their team leaders invited them to attend Discovery and took time before the event to help them prepare for it.
"We talked about what being a part of an intergenerational meeting would look and feel like," says Christ's Community student ministries leader Janie Zinn, who also serves as coordinator for Project Timothy. "This was probably the area of highest anxiety for our students. Students wanted to honor others in the meeting and feel honored themselves.
"We spent approximately two hours in prayer and preparation for Discovery. Our team was highly invested in the process before arriving at the event.
"This team of high school students walked away feeling honored, respected, and ready to lead the way for the next generation of RCA leaders. Our students moved from a place of not understanding the role of the RCA in their local ministry to experiencing a tangible role of the RCA in their current ministry context as well as their future ministry leadership opportunities.
"These students are part of a generation that wants to change the world. They want to make a lasting impact for Christ, and after participating in this event they are ready to carry the banner for the RCA now and in the future because they have been listened to and invested in.
"I am thankful to Ken Eriks, who led this event, and the adults who were in attendance, for listening to and honoring the student participants. It is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ, spanning the generations and partnering together to listen to the heart of God and seek his vision for the future of the RCA."