“If youth aren’t leading, they are leaving.”

My friend Lyle Griner who is the Director of Peer Ministry likes to say “If youth aren’t leading, they are leaving.” And I’m mindful of this as I prepare to attend the 177th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago this weekend. Clergy and Lay Leaders from 127 congregations will gather to worship, fellowship, hear from keynote speaker Sara Miles, attend workshops, network, share some meals, dance, and vote on important business affecting the life and common mission of the diocese. Yes, you read that correctly. We dance at convention. And we do something else that’s pretty cool.

We welcome children and youth to fully participate in this important event. There is child care for the little ones of course. Those in grade school and Jr. High will have excellent learning opportunities prepared by the wonderful Vicki Garvey on this year’s theme, which is sharing our stories. And the high school youth are invited to participate just as the adults do. They can attend as visitors and enjoy the many offerings at convention or serve as delegates and have full voice and vote on all of the diocesan business that will be discussed and voted on during the convention.

Our diocese has twelve at large Youth Delegate positions. These students will represent their peers around the diocese and vote on resolutions ranging from health care to clergy compensation. They will also help elect new members of important committees like the Bishop and Trustees, which oversees the properties of the diocese and the Standing Committee, which advises the Bishop.

If everything we do sends a message, I think this tells our youth that we value their gifts, we need their voices, and we expect them to engage as faithful leaders in the life of the church. It’s been said many times and many ways that the youth ARE the church. And while this is certainly true, it’s crucial that we continually affirm this reality through our practice and the ways we invite our younger brothers and sisters to BE the church.   


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