Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Teenagers Serving on PPRC

¶ 244.2a of The Book of Discipline 2004 states (in part) concerning the makeup of a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee:

One of the members shall be a young adult and one member may be a youth.

My UMC polity professor mentioned this requirement today and said that in a previous age, having a youth on PPRC was mandatory per the BoD. This provision is, however, almost universally ignored. He said that no teenager that he's ever met would be able to contribute to the more painful PPRC meetings or fulfill the weighty responsibilities of this committee. The impact of seeing the sausage of the church being made could do great damage to a teenager's faith.

So he doesn't have one on his own PPRC, nor does any church that I've ever attended.

Should churches have teenagers serving on their Pastor-Parish Relations Committees?


Anonymous said...

I've seen a stand-up face-off at a Nurture Committee meeting (by two women). I've had the chair of the Trustees try to physically block entry to the room in which they were meeting. A stack of paper has been thrown in anger at Church Council. So I don't see SPRC as having any more "sausage-making" danger than other committees. The only distinction is confidentiality of personnel decisions and discussions.

There are teens in my church I would rather see on SPRC than some of the older folks. But, that said, we generally do not put newer members -- young or old -- on SPRC, Trustees, or Finance, because those committees tend to be 99 percent business and 1 percent Kingdom, and if that's the only way they're serving the church they are getting a skewed view of what we're about.

(And after some very tough times our congregation is doing much better now in terms of leaders behaving themselves. Some folks decided to leave when called to account for their behavior.)

gavin richardson said...

i'm a yes & no.. i had to put it all in response in my own posting.

wsanders said...

Well, I'm a teenager serving on a PPRC, so I'll chime in about my personal experience. Considering the confidentiality aspect and the responsibilities of the committee, it can be a very difficult committee for a teen to serve. The long and, depending on what is brought up, uncomfortable meetings can be unpleasant, and I think it takes a certain level of maturity for a teen to take on the task of serving on PPRC.

That being said, I think the youth voice on the committee is also very important. Especially for churches with active youth ministries, youth being able to provide perspective on the issues that come before a committee can be critical to continued success of a church's youth ministries. Youth can contribute just as valuably as an adult, even on the more painful and weighty aspects of the committee. A teen weak in faith would probably not do well to serve on PPRC, but teens who understand that the church is made of imperfect human beings can make positive contributions to the committee without it causing damage.

Wabi-Sabi said...

My opinion is that if a youth can be (and should be) confirmed as a FULL Member in the UMC, then they should be permitted to participate in all aspects of membership including service on the PPRC.

They should be expected to adhere to all expectations and requirements of the committee just as any other member.

Lets face it, there are just as many problems from older adults who fail to act maturely or protect confidentiality. Age is only one factor to consider in determining one's maturity level, and age should not automatically be a barrier to membership.

I am confident that there are many 16 - 19 year olds who could handle the responsibilities very well.

codepoke said...

Tough, tough question. It almost seems more like asking whether the PPRC meetings can be made appropriate for any age.

I have no opinion on the subject, but am impressed by the question.

Nick Draper said...

I was in one of those unique churches that was willing to place a youth on the SPRC, and it was the best and worst experience of my life. You're right; there are hard decisions to make in church leadership, and all too often the church looks like a business. During my term, we went through several minor and one major - and less than amicable - staff change, and the fallout was hard on all the church, including the committee.

Having said that, it was during this time that I first listened to my call to ordained ministry. The issues that an SPRC committee faces in the church are the same issues that will confront teens as they move into the real world, and I believe it's important to include teens in the process that the church goes through to reconcile its own issues.

I agree with wabi-sabi. Maturity and discernment are key in selecting SPRC members of any age.

On the same line, I'm now a member of the (rapidly estranged) Wesley Foundation campus ministry, and a member of the AC. The exposure to church politics I had as a teen helped buffer some of the shock of conference politics. I think that for a committed, mature teen, church committees can be an effective way for them to gain a sense of Methodist connectionalism (and to learn to navigate its side effect, bureaucracy) that is so important to our denomination.

Brian said...

I think one of the problems we face as a denomination is the trouble we have engaging teens. A lot of times they're not allowed in "adult" choirs or other adult activities. I think it is an excellent opportunity to engage mature, interested youth. I think it is a fantastic way to help youth see the nuts and bolts of the church.

Joel Thomas said...

I have mixed feelings, but overall support the idea. It hasn't worked out well in some of my churches because the youth who have agreed to be nominated haven't followed through in actually attending, either at all or much. As a matter of legal liability, I do have some concerns about youth reviewing criminal background check files, a duty assigned to PPR in many of the smaller churches.

I do have to say that in my experience, youth are no worse about violating the confidentiality rules than adults, as a whole.

The key is finding mature youth. There are plenty of them out there on the whole, but in some of the small churches there are just one or two to pick from.

The need for the youth to be mature relates to something already mentioned in the comments and that is that PPR committees can be beset with rancor, something that can demoralize idealistic youth.

In principle, though, there is much to recommend for youth serving on PPR. In fact

Anonymous said...

Yes with an emphasis on maturity. The right person on SPRC can help the committee when it comes to evaluations of staff, so the views of the committee are not just from one point of view.

On a side note, I have seen SPRC committees with adults that had less maturity than 10 year olds, so it is a toss up! :)

Lorna said...

yes. if your church has active teens. count the blessings and involve them in all levels of the church. They are the church of today and not only tomorrow and I think a teen's input can be as valuable as that of a senior citizen or an adult in their 40s.

age, gender and race should not be disqualifers - but all the committee should be active in the local church, not only rubber stamping committee members.

Art said...

We have had youth serving on various committes - but I can't recall a young person on the PPRC.

I agree with Joel though, the key is finding 'mature' youth. And any medium to large sized congregation is bound to have some. Identifying them is the problem because that takes effort by adults in the church who have most likely already been asked to do more than they anticipated.

John Meunier said...

Our minister has been a strong advocate of having confirmed youth serve on church committees. He takes seriously the idea that confirmed members are full participants in the life of the chruch.

We have a teen on our PPRC (or whatever we call it).

Two comments on other people's comments:

First, I serve on Finance at our church. It has shaken my faith more than once to do that. I see no reason why teens are less equipped than we poor adults to weather the spiritual storms of administration.

Second, I worry about the talk of "maturity" as a prerequisite for teen service. I know plenty of adults in leadership positions who are not always terribly mature.

I undertand the confidentiality issues with PPRC, but being able to keep a secret and being what most adults consider "mature" are not the same thing.

Heaven forbid that we keep teens with outrageous questions and cantankerous points of view about our old, gray church out of leadership because they are not "mature" enough for the job.

The church suffers are great deal from an overabundance of maturity if you ask me.

Nick Draper said...

I certainly still have cantankerous points of view regarding the church! :-) When I referred to maturity earlier, I meant something like the ability to discuss sensitive issues appropriately. Maybe maturity isn't quite the right word, because after reviewing its definition, I need to say that I wasn't referring to Christians that have all their questions answered and are content with their faith.

John, I don't think we're in disagreement. I should have been clearer about what I meant before. (And I still have lots of outrageous questions!)

Richard said...

I'm a teenager on the Church Administrative Council.

Joel Thomas said...

The opposite of mature is immature. So our goal is to have immature youth and adults?

I agree that there are a LOT of messed up adults. But if the average adult isn't at least somewhat more mature than the average teenager, then we need parents for teenagers for exactly what purpose?

Indeed we are not talking about maturity in terms of sanctification, holiness or Christian perfection.

Keith Taylor said...


I've read your comments and your Blog. You may be a teenager, but I would hardly consider you immature. I don't know you from Adam's housecat, but if I had to guess, you have probably thought more about most things in your short life than many of the older adults in your church combined. Just from what I have read, I would consider you the model of what the Disipline is refering to when it asks for a young adult or a youth member.

BTW, what do y'all consider a young adult? I'd say anyone up to 30, but I'm 39, so what do y'all call it.

DannyG said...

Durring my "youth" period I was living in Northern New England and was a member of a Congregational church there (No Methodists within driving distance). As a senior in High School (age 17) I served on the selection committee for a new minister, as did the other HS Senior (Debbie). We had had a pretty pitiful youth program, despite a couple of dedicated teachers, and the congregation wanted the input of youth to, hopefully, improve that situtation. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to stretch, and the vote of confidence from the congregation when they came to me with the request that I serve. I know it helped me understand issues that I otherwise not have had to deal with for years.

a group of christian friends said...

I served on our church Admin. council when they asked me to. During some difficult pastor changes our youth group was being ignored, so we as the youth took it into our own hands and ran our youth group without an adult leader. Our largest problem was getting an adult to be present for lock-ins so we could us the church, youth group was held in various homes.

I have served on confrence boards and I surprised my local church with my knowledge of budgets and meeting procedure. I was a bit insulted at my first meeting when someone next to me leaned over to explain what was going on. Youth can serve as anyone else. If it is something they are willing to do and want to do age should not be an issue. I wouldn't say maturity is as big of an issue as the desire to want to serve, and keeping the group focused on not only serving the church, but serving the Lord.

In Peace,
your sister in Christ~Erin

Lorna said...

erm the teenager (hopefully mature enough to be able to keep things confidential nothing more) is only ONE person on the committee - and will gain maturity from serving her /her church... why make such a fuss

the BOD recommends it -why not try it at least - rather than being a control freak and trying to protect either the teenager or the church.

Joel Thomas said...

One of the biggest issues can be confidentiality when a pastor is being moved. It is usaully not possible for the sending and receiving PPR Committees to meet at the same time. Whether adult or youth, breaking confidentiality on a move can cause tremendous and long lasting damage.

Nevertheless, I support mature youth and adults serving on PPRC.