By Woody Woodrick
Some might think having youth members simply show up at conference is enough.
Youth leaders, however, don’t think so, and during the 18th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference meeting this week at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, they are doing something about it. Beginning Monday, the voting youth members have gathered at the church for an early-morning briefing about the key events of the day.
“We want the youth to be able to be as involved as they want to be,” said Stephen Bishop, youth minister at Crystal Springs UMC and active in the conference Youth Council. “Just being here is not enough.”
On Monday morning, conference Treasurer David Stotts spoke to the youth about the budget, which was presented to the conference that afternoon. This morning a representative of the Board of Ordained Ministry was scheduled to speak on the ordination process, which will be a major part of today’s agenda. Steve Casteel, in-coming director of Connectional Ministries, is scheduled to speak Wednesday.
“I think it’s helpful to have someone explain so we know what’s going on instead of being lost,” said Veronica Johnson of Amory St. James UMC, who said she’s at her first Annual Conference.
“I didn’t know the conference went through that much money,” she said after hearing Stotts’ discussion of the budget process.
“We hope to see these youth active in the Mississippi Conference,” said Addison Shock of Meridian, Council on Youth Ministries president. “They’re excited to be here and take part and want to be heard. These meetings will make us aware of the things that are going on so that we’ll be able to speak to the things going on in the Annual Conference.”
This is the first year of holding the morning meetings. Bishop said the idea grew out of a conversation he had with Ron Schwake of Senatobia First UMC at the winter meeting of the CYM. “We wanted a way to get the kids more information and be better involved in the process,” Bishop said. “If they have more information, they will be better delegates and more a part of the Annual Conference.”
With nearly 20 youth at Annual Conference as voting members, just about all of them attended Monday’s meeting. Bishop said most of the youth are staying together at the Cabot Lodge Millsaps. Crystal Springs UMC has provided a bus for the youth to use during the conference.
Bishop said he hopes the youth will speak on the floor during plenary sessions. “Their responsibility is to the Annual Conference as voting members, and they should be a voice in what’s going on,” he said.