Making Space for Faithful Following

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As people live longer and are healthier and active further into older adulthood, a logjam of sorts is created. Older adults who have found great meaning in their congregational roles over the years are reluctant to step back from those roles. Sometimes holding on to those roles becomes a way of denying the effects of aging or the coming end of life, while other times these dear friends simply may have mistaken the goal of congregational decision making as doing things “right” when the goal is better understood as doing things faithfully.

What if elders used their power and privilege intentionally to make space for others whose voices are not as established: “As an elder member, I have the privilege of making space for emerging and young adults in the faith community.”

Too frequently, this logjam sends messages for younger adults that they are not needed or there is no room for them. For young adults full of fresh ideas, eager to use their newly-found voices and invest themselves in the vocations to which they feel called, the logjam can be painful and defeating. Solutions such as invitations to serve on “junior” boards or as children’s church volunteers do not satisfy many of these young adults, whose real passion lies in changing the world through justice ministries, righting the wrongs they see with sharp precision at their place in life.

Something is broken in our congregations. A paradigm shift is required. What if our paradigm shifted from one of ownership, where the desire to control reigns, to one of stewardship, where the passion to share is encouraged?

What if elders used their power and privilege intentionally to make space for others whose voices are not as established: “I’m already committed to faith. Now, as an elder member, I have the privilege of making space for emerging and young adults in the faith community.” Truly all people can use their power to serve only their own needs. That’s scarcity thinking.

What if we paid attention to the abundance all around us? There’s plenty of space in the family of faith for everyone. Making room for others is the privilege of those already convinced! Making space for youth and young adults, for all those not yet invested in living the gospel, is the privilege of those who are strengthened by the love of God and the communion of saints!


This article is adapted from Reclaimed: Faith in an Emerging Generation by Denise Janssen, copyright © 2015 by Judson Press. Used by permission. It can be purchased through Amazon or Cokesbury.

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About Author

Denise Janssen is Associate Professor of Christian Education at Virginia Union University. An ordained Baptist minister, she has written numerous books and is the executive director of The Resource Center of the VUU School of Theology, which supports local churches through events, consultations, and resources. She is a staff pastor at Laurel Park United Methodist Church.


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