LAKELAND — There’s a murmur in the Florida Conference, and if
Kirkland Reynolds has his way it’s going to develop into a roar.
Reynolds, a divinity student at Candler School of Theology, is
questioning the role of young adults in the conference after the
Conference Council on Ministries’ (CCOM) Young Adult Ministry team
voluntarily surrendered its 2004 funding of $10,000 at the 2003
Florida Annual Conference Event last May.
Mike Standifer, director of Youth, Young Adult and Summer Camp
ministries, said it was a tough decision to give up the money, but
there isn’t an active group of young adults in the conference. He
said the decision was actually made at a CCOM meeting earlier this
Standifer said if a core group of young adults becomes active,
there will be an opportunity for the funding to be replaced in the
“I don’t think there’s been a meeting of young adults of any
kind in the last two years,” Standifer said. “It’s just a
defunct kind of group. We gave up the money because it was the
responsible thing to do for stewardship.”
Reynolds remains uneasy about the lack of funding.
“I’m just so frustrated,” said the member of St. Luke’s
United Methodist Church in Orlando. “It wasn’t that it was just
cut, it was completely eliminated. I’m confused about what I’m
supposed to do now. Everyone talks about what will happen when I get
older in the future, but the future is now.”
Mike Crawford can relate to Reynolds’ frustration. The director
of church relations at Florida Southern College in Lakeland says he
also struggled with the conference’s understanding of young people
as he grew up in the church and within the conference.
“Young adults don’t think they have a voice,” said Crawford,
who has 18 years of experience working with student and young adult
ministries within the conference. “Quite frankly, I don’t believe
they fit into the structure of the church. The church doesn’t know
what to do with them. We have got to change if we’re going to keep
our young people.”
Crawford, 38, said one the best worship experiences he’s had in a
long time happened at the 2003 Florida Annual Conference event, but
outside the Lakeland Center. He said after the evening worship ended
he and a group of about 10 people in their 20s went to a coffee house
and discussed the day’s business.
“We talked about whatever was talked about that day during annual
conference. We talked about life struggles; we talked about good and
evil. I think they [youth] just want us to be in dialogue with them,”
Reynolds, who was a lay delegate at the 1999, 2000 and 2003 annual
conferences, attended that impromptu gathering and said that’s what
young adults need more of in the conference. He said young adults don’t
want to sit in a classroom to come up with things to do.
“We want a place of our own,” Reynolds said. “The ‘Book of
Discipline’ calls for a young adult council, and we don’t have
one. I think the answer is for the older generation to share power and
not give it up totally. It just seems to be hard to get your foot in
Once they are invited in Crawford said the church must have
creative ways to keep them involved. He shared the story of a group of
students at Florida Southern College who decided to use their
cafeteria meals cards to buy food to feed the homeless as an example.
He said the group of young people attending the 2003 annual conference
event wanted to know why the body couldn’t do something for the
community when they get together once a year, such as build a Habitat
“The ministry will happen out of the young people,” Crawford
said. “They [Florida Southern students] didn’t get a committee
together when they wanted to do something. They just went out and did
During the 2003 conference event Reynolds spoke from the floor
questioning the conference about the $10,000 cut. He said his was the
lone voice, and he vows to continue speaking up for the younger
“I have had so many people encourage me and support me as I go
into the ministry,” Reynolds said. “I just want to feel
appreciated in the conference.”
Jana Hart, executive director of Higher Education and Campus
Ministries, said young adult voices may not have been heard at annual
conference because they can’t afford the expense of attending for
four days. She is optimistic more young adults will attend next year’s
conference event, which will be held on a weekend.
Hart said the role of lay delegate is also often given to a person
in the local church who is greatly respected by the congregation.
“This type of recognition and experience takes years to earn,”
Hart said. “I see more and more churches trying to be responsive to
young adults. They are creating outreach programs for this age group
and beginning to understand how critical it is to be an inclusive
Standifer is willing to sit down at the table and be in dialogue to
make that happen.
“It doesn’t have to be a large group of people,” he said. “We’re
just looking for young adults who are active in their churches.”
For more information or to participate in dialogue about young
adult ministry contact Standifer at 800-282-8011, extension 138, or firstname.lastname@example.org.