"Youth" is a strange term for people from 18 to 30-something,
but Chris Brnjas has been given the task of connecting with at least 50 Mennonites between these ages from across Canada.
Mennonite Church Canada appointed Brnjas, 26, as its delegate for the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) World Youth Summit next year. He attends the Gathering Church in Kitchener, Ont., and recently graduated from the master of theological studies program at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.
His main task is surveying young adults on the subject of gifts, the theme of the summit. Brnjas created a Facebook group, published an online survey, and has e-mailed people, to get their viewpoints.
MWC wants country representatives to talk to a percentage of their young adult constituents and submit a report. Then he will attend the Global Youth Summit, which is taking place from July 17 to 19, 2015, in Mechanicsburg, Pa.; the theme is "Called to share: My gifts, our gifts."
Brnjas is most excited about connecting with other Canadian Mennonites and Anabaptists from around the global church. “It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and learn about what gets people passionate about their particular church context,” Brnjas says.
So far, Brnjas has only received survey results from 10 people. But he’s found there is an overarching theme of wanting the church to be more welcoming to marginalized people. He also sees a passion for the church in the responses he’s received so far.
“Young people have a willingness and an energy to participate in the church,” he says. “They’re just needing opportunities to do that. There’s a lot of energy and passion for the church among young adults.”
He is expecting many more surveys to come in before he submits his report to MC Canada at the end of October. He hopes he’ll exceed the minimum of 50 survey responses required, so MWC will have a better understanding of what young Canadian Mennonites are passionate about.
Dave Bergen, the executive minister of Christian formation at MC Canada, sees Brnjas as a future Mennonite church leader. Bergen was instrumental in appointing Brnjas as a delegate. “Chris, to me, is a young person with huge leadership gifts,” Bergen says. “This experience is very intentionally a way to help nurture the gifts he’s already developing and provide him with experiences that will stretch him in ways that he may not have had the opportunity to explore in other circumstances.”
Bergen is excited about what Brnjas will discover about Canadian Mennonite young adults, and about how these discoveries will affect the local, national and global church. “[Young people] are less fearful of asking questions that others haven’t thought about, or have thought about but are fearful of asking,” he says. “They are pushing and leading the church in new directions.”
Brnjas is looking for more people to join the discussion. Anyone 18 to 30-something who attends a Mennonite church is invited to fill out the survey http://svy.mk/1rxYqUL. Surveys need to be in to Brnjas by Oct. 26 at the latest so he can compile the results and submit his report to MC Canada for review by the end of October. Answers will be kept confidential, he promises.
--Posted Oct. 8, 2014