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Scapegoating the Young

Photo by Flickr user GoodnCrazy

Photo by Flickr user GoodnCrazy

The complaint was voiced at the parish council meeting in this way:

“Young people don’t give enough.”

When I heard about it, my back instinctively went up. I was angry, if not a  little disappointed.

And yet, as I allowed myself to calm down, I also came to the recognition that this complaint represented some sort of progress. Minor progress, but progress all the same.

Rather than the same old refrain, “why don’t young people come to church,” this particular church had identified a new problem.

The young people were there. They were contributing in a variety of ways – through worship leadership, outreach, campus ministry and numerous other things. But the books hadn’t balanced, and that required someone to blame. That’s what young people are for.

As I think about it, at the age of 20, I had a whole lot of time, and no money. Now that I’m in my 30s, I probably have more money and less free time. What retirement will look like is anyone’s guess – but the reality is that life ebbs and flows.

It’s interesting how easily we can scapegoat the young. Whether they’re blamed for not being there, or for being there and not contributing enough, it fascinates me how often young people are blamed for the church’s ills.

To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter that the person who first uttered these words of complaint had not performed any financial analysis. It doesn’t matter that they had not broken down the community’s givings according to age, let alone earning power.

What matters is that our communities are able to see the contributions each member makes – whatever their age. What matters more is that we identify and celebrate them. Contributions may be financial, sure, but they might be just as important: the extension of hospitality, the commitment to reading in church, or visiting the sick. They might be tireless prayers on behalf of others, or the gift of imagining and enacting a more just world.

What contributions are young people making in your parish community? And more importantly, how are they being celebrated?

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (www.stbrigid.ca).

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2 Responses to Scapegoating the Young

  1. I agree the young should not be scappepgoate d like this . Who then would be next ? The poor, the single mum on a tight budget, the senior on a pension?
    The church needs to have a broader view of how they view people’s contribution to it’s life.And that is often not in finacial ways, it’s the person who serves as a greeter/sidesperson, or as a chorister, or serves the post service coffee, or hrlps when an special event happens.. Those all help the ministery of the parish and the larger church.

  2. PJW51 – I think your point about needing a broader view of peoples’ contributions is important. I suppose that’s the question of stewardship in its broadest sense: how are we stewarding the gifts God has given us individually, and as a community?

    Put another way: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’”

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