Q&A on 2015 General Convention Official Youth Presence

Applications for participation in the General Convention Official Youth Presence (GCOYP) have been open for a week and several members of the youth ministry network have called or emailed with questions. Here are a couple of questions with my responses that are worth sharing with the larger community.

What about my 15 year old freshman who is brilliant but won’t be 16 by General Convention?

The Canons of The Episcopal Church recognize 16 years of age as the age of adulthood for communicants in good standing to function as adults within the church. They should be recognized with voice and vote at their annual congregational meeting and may be eligible to stand election to vestry, convention delegate, and General Convention deputy. As a youth minister of 24 years, I also hold that rarely does a 15-year-old possess the maturity and stamina to function well at a 10-day long adult event of the magnitude of General Convention. It is also highly likely that these youngest youth will be eligible again for General Convention 2018. Please understand this is not a measure to exclude, but to engage real discernment for those with gifts and passion for this unique event in the life of the church. GCOYP isn’t your average youth event!

So few are selected, and only two per province, why should we go to the trouble of the application and nomination process if there’s little chance my youth will be selected?

Here lies the beauty of youth ministry in the church. This application process is an opportunity for local gifts discernment and mentoring. Serving as a deputy, delegate, vestry member, or GCOYP is not for everyone! And over the course of life we will not be selected for every opportunity we desire. However, we will never be selected if we don’t apply. Completing an application and working with an adult to complete a nomination for GCOYP is an adventure into gifts discernment, articulating hopes and dreams, building in accountability, and taking risks on behalf of ourselves to serve an institution and join God’s mission in the world in a very specific way. The Episcopal Church also needs a healthy number of applicants to offer themselves so we can engage discernment from a place of wide diversity from many perspectives: ethnic, racial and cultural heritage; rural, suburban, and urban demographics; different places across our theological spectrum; and socio-economic diversity. Please do not opt out or strand us with a narrow band of applicants. Engaging this process should be beneficial for all who participate, and it will help mentor youth in the process.

When will we know who is selected?

As stated in the application materials, there will be stages of notification according to province. We refrain from announcing the members of the delegation until we have all 18 youth identified and have permissions secured from their parents or guardians. In the discernment we will select more than 18 potential members and then begin making invitations. Some youth may decline due to new developments in their own lives, and that will impact who we invite in his/her place. All kinds of criteria will be considered in preparation for this possibility including gender balance for lodging options. Discernment and selection is a complex process that we undertake prayerfully, thoughtfully, and thoroughly. We will definitely make announcements by mid-March at the very latest.

What about youth who want to go to General Convention even if they are not selected for GCOYP?

There is a guest registration fee for individuals to attend General Convention. There is not an organized youth event mandated or funded for General Convention. The Youth Ministry Office is currently consulting with Inspiring Mission to try and coordinate hospitality and logistics for youth groups who would like to attend for part of convention. Feel free to contact them using the link above and please stay tuned for more on that score in the next two months. Hotel space is tight, so I encourage groups who want to join us in Salt Lake City to begin planning now!

Other questions? Please feel free to contact me at bskov@episcopalchurch.org or calling 646-242-1421. I’ll be back from Thanksgiving with my family on Tuesday, December 2.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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