Working on Our Roar: Young Clergy, General Conference, and Leadership

I don’t want to pass over others to leadership. I want others to pass their leadership over to me. I don’t want to be entitled to anything. I want to be empowered and encouraged for everything God has for me by the church that first recognized my gifts for ministry.

General Conference 2012 is currently going on, and as a 28 year-old commissioned elder in the Oklahoma Conference, I have been following General Conference largely from twitter via #gc2012. This is, of course, not the best way to follow General Conference. I don’t see the delegates talking, I’m not in the conversations, and I don’t experience the worship services. I read updates, opinions, and immediate reactions to events that happen that I don’t fully understand. (i.e. anything to do with Roberts Rules of Order, I don’t fully understand.) My experience of General Conference has largely been through a medium that lends itself to snarkiness and sarcasm instead of constructive criticism. Also the folks that are on twitter are overwhelming Americans, overwhelming white, and mostly young: characteristics that also define me.

As I read these tweets from people like me, I couldn’t help but think about one of my son’s favorite movies The Lion King and the song, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.”

I’m gonna be the mane event

Like no king was before

I’m brushing up on looking down

I’m working on my roar

No one saying do this

No one saying be there

No one saying stop that

Free to run around all day

Free to do it all my way!

Young United Methodist clergy seem to be working on our roar. We want to be heard (important) and listened to (more important), and when we don’t feel we are heard, we will roar louder and longer by tweeting and retweeting. We just can’t wait to be Kings and Queens of Methodism or #Superbishop, when we can be free to do it all our way. Now I get it, there are issues that are incredibly important to me that affect me and other youth adults and changes I want to see, but the danger is that it becomes less about holy conversation and more about unholy entitlement. Simply because I am a young clergy or young adult (an endangered species in our denomination), you must listen to me is dangerous. Just as it is dangerous to take the advice of a retired clergy member, even if they were ineffective their last 20 years in ministry, simply because they have been there before.

So the question is how we can be listened to without merely “working on our roar.” You ready for this. Seriously, this is profound. Wait for it… Jesus and The Parable of the Talents to be more precise in Matthew 25. If you are reading this you probably know the story, so let me summarize. Master gives one slave 5 talents, another 2 talents, and another 1 talent. The one who got 5 made 5 more talents, the one who got 2 talents made 2 more, and the 1 who got 1 talent and buried it. The Master aka Jesus (sorry for the spoiler) tells the first 2 servants, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

If we want to be leaders in the denomination that we love, it is not about taking leadership that is “ours,” it is about being leaders that earn influence in the lives of others. If I want others to listen to me, then I must sincerely listen to others, but most importantly I need to be faithful to where God has led me to be. For me that means being a leader as the Pastor at Trinity UMC serving Muldrow and Roland, OK. Am I passionate about things in the local church that I am in the global church? Do I make disciples who transform the world? Am I innovative in ministry? Do I listen to the wisdom of others? Do I encourage others in their faith? Does my ministry bear fruit?

It continues in being a leader at a district and conference level. Do I go to committee meetings and speak up as I feel led in those? Do I initiate relationship with clergy that are around me regardless of their age or theological persuasion? Do I care about conference ministries and not just when I am headed on vacation and need someone to preach? Do I follow through with the commitments I make to my fellow clergy and home conference?

If I/We are faithful in these ways, then I believe that we will not just be heard because we are noisy, but we will be listened to because we are respected. We will not take leadership from the grasp of another, but we will be given leadership willingly by those who have faithfully served before us. We will not be Kings, but servants of the King of Kings.

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