MC Canada youth ministry cuts worry teens

July 5, 2011 | Young Voices
Emily Loewen | Young Voices Editor

Among the recent Mennonite Church Canada staff reductions, the youth ministry facilitator role was downgraded to a contract position to plan the youth assembly every two years. Anna Rehan had filled the position previously, and she will continue her work as area church youth minister in Saskatchewan.

Rehan’s biggest responsibility was planning the biannual youth assemblies, but also used the time in between to connect with youth pastors across the country, work that won’t be able to continue in the same way now, says Dave Bergen, executive secretary of MC Canada Christian Formation. Canada’s youth and youth pastors now worry that an important voice is being shut out.

Although Olivia Wiebe, like many youths, didn’t know the position existed before now, she feels it’s important for someone to represent her generation in the national church. “Youth might not get heard” if no one actively searches for their opinions, says the Grade 10 student at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate, Winnipeg, Man.

Ryan Epp of Rosthern Mennonite Church, Sask., agrees that youths need a voice at the national level. “We have something to say,” the 16-year-old says. “There are lots of things we can offer,” he adds, but feels some older people in the church don’t appreciate youthful ideas and opinions. For this reason, a youth representative is important for him.

The slight was likely unintentional, but the cut indicates to youths that they matter less than other parts of MC Canada, according to both Wiebe and Epp. “It definitely says that youth isn’t as important a factor as other things in the church,” Epp says.

The staff cut doesn’t mean that youths have moved down on MC Canada’s priority list, according to Bergen. He is clear that the Christian Formation Council remains committed to youth ministry, but staff will have to find a new delivery vehicle for the task. The council considered this shift in previous years as a way to ease budget burdens, Bergen explains, and is implementing it now because of financial limitations.

He anticipates that the biannual youth assembly will continue, and “will likely be enough for the youth.” Young people tend to me more aware of what is happening in their congregation than at the national church level, he adds.

Rehan echoes that thought, saying that most youths “won’t really notice” she’s gone, unless they know her personally.

But neither Wiebe nor Epp feel that knowing the youth ministry facilitator was an important part of the job; for them, knowing they have someone to represent their ideas would be enough.

“It’s hard for youth to get what they’re trying to say across,” says Wiebe, who suggests that youth pastors could listen to their young people and then convey their ideas to the facilitator.

Epp says, though, that he would appreciate a visit from someone working on youth ministry at MC Canada, “for us to see that we have a representative.

Chris Lenshyn, youth pastor at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, also has questions about youth representation at the national church level after the cutback. “That void in the youth voice at that level is something that scares me a little bit,” he says.

Rehan is also unsure how MC Canada plans to maintain a youth presence. “That’s a good question,” she says, “and I don’t know the answer to that.”

Bergen doesn’t yet know how Christian Formation will fill the void. One option in discussion is connecting youth pastors electronically, teleconferencing several times a year to talk about issues and ideas. He also says there is some organizing of youth pastors at the area church level that might help keep youth ministry discussions alive.

There are youth ministry facilitator positions in MC Saskatchewan and MC Manitoba (Rehan and Kathy Giesbrecht, respectively), who work at connecting with youth pastors. MC British Columbia and MC Alberta have no similar staff member. MC Eastern Canada eliminated the position in a structural rearrangement in 2005.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.