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Millennial Leadership in the Parish

June 24, 2016

After attending a Parish Catalyst session on millennial discipleship, Catzel Bumpus and the parish staff at Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, were convinced that they needed to include more millennials in positions of leadership in the parish. She approached her pastor about increasing millennial involvement in a variety of areas, including in fairly standard roles such as lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and volunteers in faith formation programs. However, one of the most significant developments she suggested was to invite two millennial adults to serve on Church of the Presentation’s parish council. “Everyone on our parish council was over fifty-five or sixty,” said Ms. Bumpus, Church of the Presentation’s Director of Lifelong Learning. “All the other people on the council have been here for thirty years.” As a result of her participation in one of Parish Catalyst’s “Millennial Discipleship” Learning Communities, as well as continuing conversations with other attendees on her staff, she felt strongly that younger members of the parish community needed to be represented in formal parish leadership. Their experiences and insight, though different from that of older parishioners, would be a valuable asset to the health and vitality of the parish.

Two millennial adults were invited to join the council, and while both are parents with little time to spare, they immediately agreed to serve. “They were ready to jump on board,” said Ms. Bumpus. “Both of them have young children so they’re not always as free, while the people who are retired can always be here. But they give very good insight into the needs of families: what works for them and what doesn’t work as well. For the council to hear their perspective is so valuable.” While the older members of the council continue to bring important insight drawn from years of experience in the parish and working world, as well as a measure of stability and availability, the parish’s outreach to young adults and families has been better informed and strengthened by the inclusion of millennial voices. In addition, integrating millennials into structures of parish leadership has helped not only the council members but the community as a whole to recognize that the insight of young persons is vital to effective parish ministry. “Their contribution is important and valuable. Everyone has embraced them wholeheartedly,” Ms. Bumpus noted.

Church of the Presentation continues its efforts to include millennials in more forms of leadership throughout the parish and its many ministries. This involves taking the initiative to get to know millennial parishioners as well as actively identifying and reaching out to possible leaders. Not all of these invitations are successful, but the parish team keeps trying, and the response has been encouraging. “We’re constantly inviting them in,” said Ms. Bumpus. “It is hard, because some of them have young families and don’t have the time.” Despite this, she said, many young people and families are willing to make ministry and their involvement in the parish a priority in their lives, despite busy schedules and multiple commitments: “They’re here when they can be. That’s what we’re learning.” While involving millennials in formal and informal leadership requires deliberate effort and paying close attention, as well as an understanding that availability may be limited and scheduling a bit more difficult, the payoff has been well worth it for Church of the Presentation.

By: Katherine Brown, Los Angeles, CA

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