Authentic connections will ensure a vibrant future

1 Jul 2024 by Moderator, Rev. Faaimata Havea Hiliau in: Moderator

We often look around our Churches and grieve that our pews aren’t full of young people while our mission imperative is to grow and make sure that Jesus is relatable to this generation. If the first half of this year has shown me anything, it’s that our Uniting Church is full of hope and that young people are flourishing in our Church. 

I saw evidence of this at Retreat Yourself in February and was encouraged by the thoughtful young adult leaders who talked about their faith and the relevance of Jesus in their lives with conviction and grace. I saw hope for the future of our Church at the 200-strong intercultural gathering of eight-to-twelve-year-olds at Kids Camp Out.  

Traditional models of connecting seem less resonant with the generation of youth and young adults raised on technology. I think that when we dismiss young people as disinterested because of the myriad distractions, it overlooks a crucial truth: the future of the church hinges on our making sure we are engaging young people in a way that makes sense to them. So, it’s up to us as the church to bridge this gap and foster thriving communities as well as nurture places of belonging for young people so they can explore, question and navigate their faith. 

We are in a time and place as a Church where we need to be grappling with social issues like mental health, domestic and family violence, climate change and personal identity. 

And the question about Jesus still being relevant is in itself an outdated way of thinking. We don’t what we believe, but rather present it in a way that resonates with young minds. Fresh expressions of Church, small group gatherings, and utilising technology for worship and outreach can create a more engaging experiences to explore faith and relationships.  

What I do know is that young people crave authenticity. Leaders who are relatable, transparent, and acknowledge their own shortcomings and can and do establish genuine connections.  

Our Synod Pulse team are fostering relationships and conversations about faith, doubts, and struggles and are creating safe spaces for young people to explore their spirituality through their camps and resourcing and supporting ministry agents across the Synod. 

Young people have a lot to offer. By empowering them to take on leadership roles, we can tap into their energy and creativity.  Giving them the opportunity to organise events, lead worship services, or contribute to decision-making demonstrates that their voices are valued. By offering these leadership opportunities Churches are actively and genuinely in the mission of Growing Young. 

Young people are passionate about making a difference in a world in conflict. Through advocacy young people can express their faith and through action they see its real-world impact. We see evidence across this Synod of the advocacy work already being supported by Churches, embracing the challenges we face as communities of faith at home and across the globe. 

Creating a vibrant youth community extends beyond our Sunday services.  Events, social gatherings, and retreats foster friendships and a sense of belonging. Young people crave a space where they can connect with peers who share their values and navigate life’s challenges together. 

Churches should be a welcoming space for all, regardless of background, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  

By adapting to changing needs, embracing technology, and fostering a community of authenticity and action, Churches can bridge the gap and inspire young leaders. The Uniting Church has a unique opportunity to offer young people a sense of purpose and belonging in a rapidly changing world. 

My prayer for this Synod and indeed the whole Uniting Church is that by embracing change and fostering genuine connections, our mission to connect the Church and young people can be strengthened, ensuring a vibrant future for generations to come.