It is well known that Martin Luther started the Reformation in 1517, but how did it end? Or has it?
For the past three years, I have been representing the youth of the LCANZ within the Global Young Reformers Network (GYRN). I have also been a member of the steering committee representing the Asian region as we determine the future of the network.
Started in 2014, the GYRN is an initiative of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). It is a program created by youth, for youth and aims to connect young people throughout the world who are active in their local Lutheran communities.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, this program has been revamped to support youth leaders globally and regionally to make positive connections and impacts within their local congregations. Importantly, it is designed to develop young leaders’ voices within the church. It gives a space for young people to truly be church leaders of the present and the future.
This raises important questions. How can we bring the voice of the youth into our church? How do we do this so that the work of the youth can be considered the work of the church?
These are questions I have been exploring with youth around the globe. And guess what? We in Australia and New Zealand are not the only ones to have these questions! Other churches within our Southeast Asian region also struggle with the best ways to bring youth into the leadership structures of the church.
At a recent gathering of Asian regional church leaders, young people were able to bring these questions to each other, to our leaders and before God. We may not have the answers yet, but to follow are some of the ideas raised to give a voice to young people in the church.
- Provide ownership of programs to youth: If there are passionate young people within your congregation, give them the opportunity to take the reins with you. Allow them to lead programs or offer ideas for the whole church – not just relating to youth programs. But most importantly work with them and support them so that they have the tools to succeed.
- Gather churchwide youth to be part of Lutheran fellowship together: Australia and New Zealand are such big places, with Lutheran youth spread so far apart that we can feel like we’re the only ones. So, for example, hold a half-yearly gathering or meeting to show youth that they are part of something larger. And this may just spark ideas for ways that youth can worship and serve together.
- Invite youth to join decision-making bodies: These ideas and skills have to start somewhere, and our congregations are the perfect place for youth to feel empowered to lead. There are many ways to continue the Lutheran reformation, even now in 2022, and many of these can start within our local churches. What’s more, if your youth have a passion for leadership, encourage them to serve on churchwide decision-making bodies, such as the committees and boards for Local Mission departments, LCA International Mission or the Commission on Worship. I have been on the International Mission committee for more than three years, and it is such a worthwhile experience.
- Bring back ideas: It’s unlikely you didn’t know what I have been doing within the GYRN – which is fair enough, considering I’m probably not a member of your congregation. But I’m not the only one. Do you know the youth in your church who are involved in mission? Do they perhaps get involved with Australian Lutheran World Service projects? Are you involved with a Lutheran school that has an overseas partner school? Or are your youth serving the community locally? Your congregation could establish a system by which youth who do mission can bring ideas, stories and projects back to your church – not just to the youth but to the whole church membership.
No matter how old we are, we are all aiming for one goal – sharing the gospel for the glory of God! It is my prayer that the LCANZ can be an agent of God’s love and an agent of change within our local, regional and global contexts. I pray that we can continue to welcome ideas that lead to the continual reformation of the church. May God bless your ministry as we dive into the future of the church side-by-side.
Elsa Matthias is a 22-year-old physiotherapist and is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Horsham in Victoria.