I was given permission to pass along this data from the FGC-sponsored Youth Ministry Consultation that took place Third Month. A number of goals and projects had been brainstormed beforehand. The thirty-or-so participants at the Consultation were each given ten stars, which they were asked to put next to the projects they thought should be pursued. Every star acted as a vote that there was one person interested in that topic. The stars were coded to indicate the age range of the voter: High-Schooler, Adult Young Friend (18 – 37 years old) and older Friends.
|One of the “stars” charts at the consultation|
Being the information design geek, I converted the resultant votes to into qualities and colors and put them into a chart showing interest level. Projects that received no votes from a particular age range are labeled “none,” for no interest; 2 – 3 stars is “weak” interest and so forth, up to “HOT” which are projects which received over 7 stars from an age group.
As an example, take “develop spirituality.” Seven adult young Friends (aged 18 – 37) put a star down for this, indicating they thought it was something FGC should promote, hence “strong” (bright red) interest from this age group. No Friend over forty used one of their stars to indicate interest in this work, indicating that none of them thought FGC should be promoting spiritual development. Here are the results:
Expecially for Adult Young Friends
|Outreach & how to explain our faith||none||strong||weak|
|Critical mass at MM, QM, YM||none||weak||strong|
|Mentoring by older Friends||none||strong||none|
|Mentoring to younger Friends||none||strong||none|
|Mentoring to older Friends:||none||strong||none|
|Help with transitions||none||*HOT*||weak|
|Traveling Ministries for AYF||none||lukew||weak|
|Groups throughout the year for support||none||lukew||weak|
|Support for AYF groups at the YM levels||none||weak||weak|
|Database to help isolated friends||none||none||none|
|For HS to College||none||lukew||none|
|For work transitions||none||weak||none|
|Intergenerational Spiritual Conversations|
|About Vital Friends Issues||none||lukew||none|
|Vision of Quakerism in 50 years||none||lukew||weak|
|Financial support for AYF||weak||*HOT*||lukew|
|Retreats for youth workers||none||none||weak|
|Materials specifically designed for AYF,||none||none||none|
|How do we handle the broad age span?||none||weak||none|
|How do we tap the energy and passion of this group MMs, YMs & FGC?||none||lukew||strong|
|How do we meet the needs without separating AYF from larger community?||none||lukew||none|
|How do we sustain community when we only meet once a year?||none||lukew||weak|
Especially for High Schoolers
|Adults who are better prepared to work with them…||weak||lukew||strong|
|FAPï¿½s that have self confidence||none||none||weak|
|Help with discernment process around college||none||none||none|
|Help with disc: C-O||none||none||weak|
|Help with discernment around life choices||none||none||weak|
|Discernment questions: #3, #4, & #5:||none||weak||strong|
|Bible study, RE curriculum||none||none||weak|
|Training how one person can have impact||none||none||none|
|Training on how to develop group dialogs||weak||none||weak|
|Help to get more teens involved||weak||none||lukew|
|Email data base||none||weak||none|
|Event b’ween Young Quakes and Gathering||weak||none||none|
|Programs to facilitate rites of passage||weak||none||none|
Things Younger Friends wanted more than Older Friends:
In order by AYF popularity:
- MENTORSHIP: The AYFs really want cross-generational mentoring relationships. When the questions were first posed, there only “mentoring by older Friends” and “mentoring to younger Friends.” Check the math and you’ll see that’s the same question (whoever put the questions together forgot that the Quaker understanding of eldership is not necessarily a function of age, hmm). I grabbed a pencil and added “mentoring to older Friends” and it was instantly popular. Even though the mentorship issue was spread over three questions, AYF’s voted “strongly” for each of them, showing terrific popular support. Almost no over-40 Friend voted for this. This is not something that can be forced onto disinterested older Friends, which means I think we young-in’s are going to have to rely on one another for mentorship.
- SUPPORT FOR AYF CONFERNCES: Younger Friends want to spend more time together. Note should be made that the voters were Friends attending a conference and that we were a selected and self-selected group who presumably like to attend conferences. Still, this is popular.
- TALKING ABOUT OUR FAITH: It’s sad that only two older Friends thought explaining the faith was worthwhile. At the same time it’s encouraging that 13 AYFs wanted this. It’s very clear that younger Friends aren’t as afraid of talking about serious faith issues as the Baby Boomers (it’s nice to see some of my essays confirmed!).
Things Older Friends wanted more than Younger Friends:
- TAPPING THE YOUTH: There was what I thought was a semi-obnoxious question about how to “tap the energy and passion” of younger Friends. This is very close to the all-too-common generational mindset that sees “values young people as a resource” (as a ad in heavy-rotation at NPR proclaims). We are not a resource for extraction. Young people are too often seen merely as a source of cheap labor for projects initiated, designed and run by older Friends; they are wanted as passive audience members for older Friends’ pontificating lectures; they are endlessly proclaimed a far-off “future” of Friends rather than the very much here-and-now present of Friends.
While older Friends at the consultation felt strongly that young people should be tapped, Adult Young Friends had lukewarm interest in being tapped and high school Friends showed no interest whatsoever. While not all older Friends think of young Friends as “resources,” it’s a common-enough theme that we need to flag it as a part of the generational gap. I suspect that power issues will surface when Quaker institutions try to pull together projects that “tap” youth: twenty-something Friends are going to want more involvement in the design and operation of these projects than older Friends will be willing to give.
Similarly, older Friends seem to be more interested that younger Friends attain “critical mass” at Quaker institutions like monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings. The phrasing of the question is a little ambiguous and I see two likely explanations. One is that younger Friends don’t feel they need critical mass to be involved in Quaker institutions and want integrated intergenerational participation rather than “AYF ghettos.” The other possibility (the scarier one) is that younger Friends simply aren’t as committed to Quaker institutions. I suspect the generational differences in responses are the result of both these factors, plus others perhaps.
Things no one particularly cared about:
- No one wants materials specifically designed for AYF. No one wants advertising programs. No one wants a database to help isolated Friends.
- An AYF traveling ministries was lukewarm, 4 YAF stars, 3 over-40. This surprises me.
- Any other patterns that should be lifted up?
I should note that this was not a scientific survey. Though the organizers of the Consultation tried hard and the participants were surprisingly diverse for an collection like this, they weren’t representative. There were only four high school participants and I didn’t adjust their votes: “lukewarm” support from them should really be relabled “strong” support.
While this is a small sample size, this is one of the few recent surveys of it type in FGC Quakerism and it bears close study. It confirms a lot of what I’ve been saying all these years (yea!, I’m not crazy) and echoes what I hear a lot of high school and twenty-something Friends talking about. Take it for what its worth!
- I first wrote about the Youth Ministries Consulation in “It’s My Language Now”