On Tuesday, 26 April, a group of young people from across the British Union Conference (BUC) and their Youth Ministry directors met with the Trans-European Division (TED) leaders at the St. Albans office. The meeting was hosted by the TED as a listening exercise—an opportunity for young adults to share their experiences and dreams for the church.
Shona Beecham, from the Aylesbury Church, Francine Drysdale-Brown, from the Brixton Church, Rohail John, from the London-Asian Church, and Ethan Manners-Jones, from the St. Albans Church, took turns presenting their ideas to the TED leaders. The presentations were based on two guiding questions they were asked to answer candidly: “What is going well, and we should do again?” and “What changes must we implement to maximise our impact/service?”
Beecham, the first presenter, highlighted her appreciation for congresses and youth events, especially cross-conference events, because they allow “to meet more people, [fostering] collaboration and exchange.” Beecham suggested that more events should be planned, with young people taking part in the organisation, where relevant topics like global warming are addressed.
John delivered a passionate and insightful presentation, expressing his gratitude for the training and youth events organised by the South England Conference (SEC). John further highlighted the impact that such events have on the lives of young people. However, he also warned, “Young people are not Christmas decorations.” Commenting on the tendency to underestimate young people and give them minor roles to play, he said, “Decorations fall easily.” John concluded his presentation by urging those present to find ways to involve young people in meaningful ways in the life of the church.
Drysdale-Brown, the youngest of the presenters, shared how getting involved in church was pivotal in her personal growth. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was asked to record a musical item for the online church service. This helped her gain confidence and experience. In time, she accepted other leadership roles she would not have otherwise considered. “I don’t think I’d be here talking today if it wasn’t for that,” Drysdale-Brown confessed. “It is important that we create impactful programmes that target the specific problems that our young people are battling.” She suggested a division-wide survey to explore the needs of Gen Zers¹ in the TED territory.
Manners-Jones was the final presenter. He expressed his gratitude to the youth leaders of his church for remaining in contact with him while he is attending college. “I am very fortunate; my church sends care packages, cards, and messages.” Manners-Jones also shared his desire for all Adventist university and college students to experience this level of care and commitment from their local leaders.
After the presentations, a reflection session was conducted. TED and BUC leaders, Anthony Fuller, Clifford Herman, Kevin Johns, Isaac Liburd, and George Osei-Bonsu, spent time with the Gen Z presenters to explore ways in which their suggestions could be implemented. All suggestions were recorded and will be used to inform TED’s planning. After a fruitful afternoon, Raafat Kamal, TED president, took time to thank each of the presenters for their “enthusiasm and honesty” in sharing their ideas.
¹ Generation Z (Gen Z) refers to those born from 1997 to 2012. The oldest members of Gen Z are starting their post-education years, with new careers; the youngest are ten years old.