Time to be a champion

From Our Leaders

May 18, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 10
Kirsten Hamm-Epp | Mennonite Church Saskatchewan
Kirsten Hamm-Epp (right) and her mom, Marilyn Houser Hamm. (Supplied photo)

These days I’ve been thinking about youth and the church. Connecting youth to the church is a passion of mine, and I’m fortunate that the wonderful people of Saskatchewan see fit to pay me to do this work. I am also fortunate to have had a number of people invest significant time encouraging me to live into my passion and work for the church.

When I started to think about the people—women in particular—who have been role models and champions in my life, the list quickly expanded from two to six, to more than 10. I could easily write an article dedicated to each one, but for now I’ll settle with naming three: Marilyn Houser Hamm, Anna Rehan and Kathy Giesbrecht.

In their own way, each one of these women has been a true champion of mine, encouraging me not just to share my gifts with the church, but telling me that the church needed me, and was calling me to serve. Thinking about them gives me pause and a feeling of deep, deep gratitude. Not to mention a big smile!

As questions (and concerns) are being raised about the lack of people pursuing a vocation in ministry in Mennonite Church Canada, I wonder if part of the way we can all respond is to make sure we are being champions for our youth. To tell them they are seen, they are appreciated, and there is a place in the church with their name on it.

I am now at the phase in life where I get to be someone’s champion; a humbling, exciting and more-than-a-little intimidating thought. Am I wise enough—old enough—to be someone’s champion?

In a lot of conversations with youth, we tend to be a bit shy, apologetic even, when putting the option of serving the church on the table as a valid career and vocation. While the dangers of coming on too strong are worth consideration, the reality is that this is exactly what younger generations need to hear in order to remain involved and engaged in church, at any level.

I have a sticky note on my desk reminding me, in no uncertain terms, that it is now my job to be the role model, to be the champion. To not just receive encouragement from others, but to make sure I am boldly and unapologetically encouraging youth to share their gifts with the church, now and into the future. Because it’s true; we need their gifts, and we owe our youth the gift of calling them to serve.

It’s our turn. Time to be someone’s champion. 

Kirsten Hamm-Epp serves as regional church minister for Mennonite Church Saskatchwan and can be reached at youthminister@mcsask.ca.

Read more From Our Leaders columns:
‘Camp shapes people’ 
Jesus and the 4 Cs
Book recommendations from leaders
What is a Mennonite?
Driving Miss Darcie

Kirsten Hamm-Epp (right) and her mom, Marilyn Houser Hamm. (Supplied photo)

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