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‘Asking the right questions’

What SA youth want

“Millennials,” also known as Generation Y, are commonly described as young people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Recently, Commissioners Barry C. and Sue Swanson, territorial leaders, held an event called “Catalyst” to provide a forum for millennials in The Salvation Army to discuss their role in the Army’s future.

The “Catalyst” weekend started and ended with prayer and worship.

Major Jodi Lloyd, associate territorial youth secretary, explains, “We intentionally placed worship and prayer at the beginning, middle, and end of this weekend because we knew that, ultimately, God is the one who guides us and gives us purpose. We want His vision and His insight.”

Major Philip Lloyd opened the forum by pointing out that millennials are leaving the Church in record numbers.* “Obviously, we want to change the fact that young people are leaving, but this isn’t about starting another program,” he said. “Sometimes a program is just an answer to a question that isn’t being asked. We have to start by asking the right questions. That’s what our discussion has to be about; that is what our entire weekend is about.”

‘Authenticity’ is key

The territorial commander said that the goal of the weekend was simple, “ … listening to one another and to the voice of God.” But he cautioned that achieving such sensitivity to God and to each other would be challenging. “Now comes the delicate process of sorting out what the Spirit is saying to each of us,” he said.

As delegates discussed various topics, they came to a consensus on a number of issues:

  • Young people love the mission of The Salvation Army, and they are ready to commit to it.
  • They want to go deeper in their faith in the context of authentic spiritual communities.
  • They reject a shallow understanding of the Bible or shallow relationships.
  • They want to live out their faith and mission in the context of a loving community, where it is safe to wrestle with doubt and the hard questions.

Overall, they say, they want to be fed spiritually so that they can continue the mission rather than burn out and leave the work.

They also want love to be the pre–eminent characteristic of the Body of Christ—love for Christ, love for one another, and love for the lost.

Annie Liang, a graduate student and soldier at Harlem Temple Corps, said God reminded her that her voice counts. She was impressed with the territorial leaders who “truly care and listen.”

“God has blessed me with immense gifts and opportunities to be His hands and feet right where I am,” she said. “I left [the meetings] feeling encouraged, excited, and challenged to step out in faith and in power.”

Jennifer Clark, a soldier at the Portland (Citadel), Maine, Corps, said, “I thought this weekend was helpful, because I felt that the facilitators gained a deeper understanding of young adults in The Salvation Army.”

“I really appreciated how humble and respectful all of the facilitators were,” she said. “I felt like they really came to listen and learn from their younger brothers and sisters in Christ. I also felt that we, as young adults, were able to get a better understanding of where the older generation is coming from. Increased understanding on both sides will lead to better communication and a more effective church as a whole,” she said.

by Chuck Goodin

—Chuck Goodin is the young adult,
camping, and sports ministries director
for the USA Eastern Territory.

* After age 15, nearly three out of every five young Christians (59 percent) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life. —The Barna Group


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