Leah Wenger graduated from Eastern Mennonite High School last June and is currently a first year student at Eastern Mennonite University studying psychology and music. She loves singing in EMU’s choir, Emulate and enjoys spending time outdoors doing a variety of activities. Leah is an active member of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she has attended since childhood.

Nearly a year and a half ago, I called for a change in the Mennonite Church.

As a member of the youth during Kansas City 2015, I felt there was a strong, unnecessary divide between the youth and adult delegations that led me to ask, “What is the role of the youth in our church today?”

This question prompted me to speak out on behalf of many young people who feel overlooked or cast aside by the church as an institution. Young people are often told that their generation will be the one that will fix the problems of the world and more specifically the church. I know that my generation has the tenacity to make change, push boundaries and grow the Mennonite Church, but I do not believe the church is giving us the opportunities of learning and leadership that we need to ignite a spark of passion. The young people are the future of our church and our world, so the institution must find ways to make sure the next generation is prepared to take on the responsibilities of leading a united people through a world of beauty and brokenness to a kingdom of love and justice.

After my experience at KC 2015, I was asked to join a committee whose purpose was to develop a youth program that sought to integrate young people into the adult delegate world.

Our end product is a program called Step Up, set to launch at Orlando 2017, that will encourage and excite youth to be not only engaged in the worship and activities of the Youth Convention, but also in the discussions and the work of the delegates and the larger Mennonite Church.

Each conference and constituency group will be invited to nominate regular church attenders, rising sophomores in high school and older, to be involved in this program.  Step Up reps will receive preparation for being a part of the delegate sessions, and then sit in at an assigned round table discussion group during the Delegate Assembly and debrief together with other Step Up reps afterwards. This is an incredible way for young people who are interested in church leadership to explore what that entails. I encourage everyone who is interested to give this a try; we are hopeful that this program will spring interest and excitement within the next generation of our church.

I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to speak for change, and I hope that I have made and continue to make wise decisions regarding my growing voice in the Mennonite Church. I hope to represent my fellow youth members as honestly as possible, and build opportunities for each one of them to listen and learn, while preparing for future leadership. I believe this to be my first step of many within the Mennonite Church, and I hope to count on your support as I continue on my journey.

If you or someone you know may be interested in participating in Step Up, talk to your pastor about how you can contact your conference leader. If you have any questions please email Brooke Musselman, planning team member, at brookm@atlanticcoastconference.net.