We cannot afford to lose our young people!

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When we begin to look at every great social movement that has been started throughout the world. It usually has been started by a young person. Even our denomination was founded by Richard Allen at the age of 27. If we as a denomination are to grow and even exist, we must make the leadership and nurturing of our young people a priority. Statistics across denominational lines show that church leaders are quickly reaching retirement age. And as such I hope we will think about the future of our church. Who are our up and coming future leaders. Are we training them? Do we have a mentor program in place? I am an alum of Princeton Theological Seminary and twice a year I am asked to send the names of perspective seminarians. My seminary is suggesting we look at youth as young as high school. My goal is to be able to submit at least 10 names from our AME denomination each year! So what are your thoughts about the question. Perhaps we can come up with a plan that we can begin to use on the local level. Love to all the Saints, Rev. Denise Rogers

-- Anonymous, September 21, 2000


Dear Denison Rogers I can't help if this sounds like an add, but in earnest reply to your post, and in accordance to it here is my answer. I often hear statistics that state many high school graduates can't read the diploma. And that young people know more about dinosaurs than they do their own biology. Student test scores are so poor than they are giving the teachers test to make sure they know the curriculum they are teaching. are research has shown that generation-X, welfare to work, and immigrants, are short in the life skills area. Life Skills, THE HOW TO'S: using the phone book, understanding basic business news (like what's heard over the radio,) reading street maps, and more. We have put together curriculum containing 12 such life skills that are need to know skills and add in that quality to life. the material is aranged so that it can be taught in 3 eight hour sessions. But I will discuss that with you in private by e-mail. For now I will leave you with this link to a list of free life skills samples action may copy and share with those you think can use them.

http://www.themestream.com/gspd_browse/browse/view_by_tag.gsp? auth_id=91469

-- Anonymous, September 28, 2000

Rev. Rogers, This is a very good question because it will determine the future of African Methodism. There is a need for a mentoring program within the church to prepare our leaders. We must look at qualified mentors that can nurture and teach. Unfortunately our church is political also and many will not want to give up nor train someone who they feel may one day replace them. I am fortunate that I have a Pastor, as well as Bishops and the Pastors within my conference who have taken it upon themselves to impart their experiences and knowledge upon me. The need for mentoring is crucial because we as a church have lost many young preachers to other denominations as well as our young people are going COGIC. This leaves the question what it the futur of the AME Church?

-- Anonymous, September 28, 2000

Pastor Jerome, it is always good to hear from you. When I was a United Methodist minister a mentoring program was in place in the NY conference. The mentors were the pastor and the congregation of which you were a member. And part of the ordination process was that you had to publicly say you wanted to be a pastor in front of the congregation. Then one would meet regularly with the senior pastor and lay leaders. During my time in Seminary I was very blessed to have two male mentors who were supportive of women in ministry, and taught be a lot, things that you do not learn in seminary. I also actively sought out female role models. To this day I continue to do this, and one of my role models and earthly angels is Presiding Elder Carolyn Guidry! One of our future Bishops. Pastor Jerome I think you would make a wonderful mentor to young people, and I think everyone who contributes to this board would be ideal. I know one of the main reasons I am transfering my ministerial credentials to the AME church is because of the wonderful support I have received. My pastor Rev. Defoe, Wayne Chapel Billings, Montana and Presiding Elder Casson of the fifth district have been generous, kind, and very encouraging. I know there are good people in this denomination that want to take young people and others under their wings. Let's keep talking about this issue. I also feel there are great pastors in other denominations that would like to be AME pastors, we need to keep an eye open for them also.

-- Anonymous, September 28, 2000

Rev. Rogers, you are right. We cannot afford to lose our young people, both clergy and lay. It appears that we are and aging church. When I go to our meetings, everyone seems to be fifty and over except at the Convocation. Of all the preachers in my district, there is not one under 35. Most of the persons accepting the call ministry are second-career individuals in their forties. What is happening? I am a second-career preach also having accepted the call at 48 and now approaching 20 years in the ministry. However, I have very young children (10 and 12). My wife asked the question, "Is the AME Church family-friendly?" As I thought about it, almost all of our meetings are during the school year and we cannot attend together. The result is that she takes care of the children and works while I attend our meetings alone, which is not good for one's career. What do you think? Blessings Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, October 03, 2000

Pastor Paris, thank you for your observations. Most main line denominations are facing the same challenges as the AME church. The church's that are growing and seeing an increase in attracting young people, seem to be the evangelical churchs. Youth and families are a priority. Youth Pastors, Religion Education Directors are most oftened fully supported in those churches. I dare say the "Church" as a whole is dealing with an aging clergy population. I am hoping at planning meetings and annual conferences that evangelism of youth will be a priorty. With concrete suggestions of how to attract young people. Whether it means starting a teen center, coffee house etc. By the way I am 48 and my daughter is 23.

-- Anonymous, October 03, 2000

The concerns expressed by Rogers, Paris and Stembridge are all true and equally disturbing if demographic trends continue. The fundamental problem for our Zion is this: Youth and young adults tend to be less tolerant about traditions, customs and suffocating bureaucratic regulations which are characteristic of AMEC polity. The rapidly disappearing age group of 22-35 in our AME churches reflect changing ecclesiatical expectations. These young men and women are smart, well-educated and ambitious professional workers and entrepreneurs. Their spiritual demands reflect informal but structured religious teaching/preaching/worship and less rules and regulations in establishing a relationship with Christ. If we desire to make our youth inclusive do we do this knowing that some sacrosant AMEC traditions will have to be buried??? Failure to answer this question in the affirmative will only expedite the AME youth exodus into the comfortable surroundings that COGIC offers. QED

-- Anonymous, October 03, 2000

Bill you hsve brought up some very good points in terms of the need to retain youth and young adults. One of the things that I think we should look at is creating diverse and specialized ministries. For example I was a United Methodist Campus Minister. With a congregation of 250. Most of the congregation were students, who were out late on saturdays so I had the worship service at 7Pm, when we ask young people what they want for worship, they tell us. Now it is our turn to act upon the suggestions. Worship can and should be alive! Perhaps the lost of our youth will encourage us to evaluate the style of worship. This past sunday I watched as teenagers and young adults sat on the edge of their seats listening to Presiding Elder Casson preach, he spoke to them, he thanked them for coming, and during the altar call, the teenagers were the ones coming forth, after the Elders sermon. Bill why do you think we are losing our youth to COGIC? What are they doing?

-- Anonymous, October 03, 2000

After visiting Grant AME's (located in South Central Los Angeles) early morning worship, I instituted an 8:30AM worship which lasts approximately one hour. This was not necessary because of numbers but to make services available to those who had to choose between football and church and were consistently making the "wrong" choice. Since then, we have experienced a 50% increase in attendance with the majority of that being the under 35 crowd. I'm still not satisfied with the demographics of the congregation. In order to experience consistent growth, at least 50% of the congregation should be under 30 with significant numbers of 20 and under. Does this make sense? Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, October 04, 2000

Pastor Paris, you are making a lot of sense!! I congratulate you on your creativity for your early morning service. I will be starting a church here in Bozeman next month, and Jazz is the music of choice in our town, I know it is funny to think about Jazz and Montana. But it is true, one of the things I am planning is having Jazz muscians from the high school, as regular guests at the service. I am a former jazz singer myself, so this will attract young people. Since most of our African American students in my town are athletes from big cities, I will probably have one service in the evening, since the students have games over the weekend. And I will ask them to be a part of our worship planning committee. One of the things I am looking at, is contemporary topical bible studies for young adults. I have noticed that young people are eager for mission work. I am hoping to partner with an AME church on the continent of Africa for some projects.I think as long as we continue to discuss this issue and offer concrete suggestions, we can help each other as concerned pastors and laity. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, let's look at churches that are attracting young people and follow their example. I also think it is important to have young people visible and near the pulpit. Let there be a "youth, young adults" moment, where they share what they are doing in the church. Also have them make the announncements, etc. I am enjoying this dialogue. Rev. Denise Rogers of Africa for mission involvement for the youth.

-- Anonymous, October 04, 2000

I'm of that denomination "Used to be AME". When I got married four years ago I chose the denomination of my husband, United Methodist; however the fire of African Methodism had weakened for this 5th generation AME sometime before then. My parents are still very active AMEs, my father is a Presiding Elder, and I have tried to explain to him the very thing that you are discussing, the lost of our youth.

I beg to differ with the gentleman who stated 22 -35 is where we're losing our youth. I believe it begins at age 18 when our children are sent off into the world for college or adult life. We have trained our children in the importance of attending Sunday services and having a strong religious background and faith in God, which they are continuing to do. We simply are not providing our children with the nourishment that they need spiritually. While I was a child, my parents were active in everything with our Church. They believed that our Church should be a family and so we were embraced and embraced others. When I left home for college, I attended a Church that had that same philosophy. I was welcomed there as a "cousin" who would be on an extended stay. The pastor was a family friend, but many of the members were strangers to me. They embraced me as one of their own. I was then inclined to encourage other friends who were looking for a church home to attend services with me. We started our own little AME Club and took turns driving each other to Church, choir rehearsal, YPD meetings, etc.

My message is simple, if the AME Church is to continue to flourish and grow, we must continue to nurture our future generations. It must start on the local level. When your high school graduates have chosen their college of choice, help them to find a Church home in their new area. Make them aware of the pastor there. Also, if your Church is in a college town, get a ministry going that will reach out to the college students in your area. Make your Church a family and invite the college students to become extended family members.

Your Church could also start a Singles ministry which would help those who are older, but are seeking a Church home.

The AME Church may lose members like me who chose to follow the denomination of their spouse, but they could gain so many more by reaching out to the 18 - 35 year olds in the area.

I enjoy reading the AME Today to see what is going on in the Church of my heart. I'd like for it to continue to be around for many more generations.

-- Anonymous, October 30, 2000

Michelle is was good to read your comments. By the way I grew up in a United Methodist church and now I am AME. I am very excited about our new religious education director we have for my church that will open Dec. 3rd. She is my 23 year old daughter! She minored in religion and will be starting a PH.D program in religion next year. I do live in a college town. A town that is 98 percent white. But the atletes are mostly black and from big cities. They do need a church they can call home. My daughter always had positive experiences in church growing up. And she wants to share those experiences with the youth and those who are attending the church for the first time. Rev. Denise Rogers

-- Anonymous, October 31, 2000

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