Gavin Richardson has an interesting post on the number of Generation X’ers in leadership positions in the UMC over at the MethoBlog. I think he and Andrew Thompson have some excellent points. Thompson writes,
The annual conference is the most distinctive mark of our polity. When undertaken in true Wesleyan fashion, it’s a place where connectional ministry really happens. The worship, fellowship and celebration of ministry can be a rejuvenating experience. It’s a place to learn firsthand what it means to be a Methodist. But anyone who has attended an annual conference knows that the top-heaviness of the church is reflected in the average age of delegates. The predominant hair color within the bar has a decidedly gray tint. Does it have to be that way? How might annual conference change if churches began electing delegates under the age of 40? What would be the impact if large churches-who send multiple delegates-would make sure to include at least one 20-something?
I have one observation to add to this. When do we have our conferences? During the middle of the day for the most part (ours starts on Sunday evening and ends on Thursday). How many young leaders can take off from college, work, or raising a family to spend a week at Annual Conference? Sure, some can. Yet, most folks have limited vacation time and would rather spend it with their families. I’d like to know the percentage of lay delegates to Annual Conference who are retired.
Perhaps the way to go is to shorten Annual Conference, a la Bishop Willimon and the North Alabama Conference. Of course, I love the networking and connection with other pastors that takes place over the week-long conference. So, I’d think we’d have to supplement our connection through other avenues, such as spiritual retreats for clergy.
Further, let’s get young clergy involved in leadership early on. Last I checked, there is not a minimum age for bishops, is there? Surely we have some dynamic young pastors out there who could provide leadership on a larger level than the Young Adult Task-force or some such entity.
Anyway, these are good questions Gavin and Andrew. Keep asking them!