Mission and young people have always held a special place in my heart. Some of this comes from experiences I had as a teenager and college student within the church. I always went to youth camp where I met missionaries and leaders within the denomination.
It was at Riverside Park in the Nebraska Conference that I felt God's call to mission service when I was in high school. I was a part of the national Youth Council of the Evangelical United Brethren Church for four years during college. Through this, I participated one summer in Youth Mission to Youth, a youth evangelism program through which teenagers worked with teens in a different local church each week of the summer.
Joyce D. Sohl, fifth from left at back of table, meets with the Youth Council of the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1956. Photo Courtesy of Joyce D. Sohl
My first office in the church's women's organization was secretary of mission education for youth. In that role, I worked with the conference youth director in camps, Christmas holiday retreats and youth rallies. I also helped young people understand mission and the opportunities available to them for mission service.
I taught junior and senior high school for awhile and served with my husband as sponsors for the youth fellowship of our local church. When our sons were teens, our home was the community center for many of their activities.
Young people have been an important part of my life -- at times fun, at times trying and frustrating, at times surprising and exciting.
Mission and young people are still an important part of my life. During the summer of 1998, I spent six weeks with a group of college students touring the Baltic states spreading God's message of love through music. This past summer, I was part of the team working with high-school juniors and seniors from around the world as they spent almost two weeks thinking about mission, experiencing mission and discovering ways they could participate in God's mission at the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries' International Youth Conference for Mission.
Youth from both these groups are in weekly contact with each other via the Internet. They continue their journeys of searching for their places in church and society.
The Women's Division made the decision several years ago to establish teen and college/university units of United Methodist Women. Some local churches, districts and conferences have welcomed this opportunity to renew work with young women. Others are hesitant.
All of us need to understand and accept the contributions teen women and college/university women can make to our organization. Here are a few facts and statistics we need to know about teens and college/university women:
As members of United Methodist Women, we must be welcoming to young women. We must assist them in hearing God's call to mission and service. To do this, we will need to:
Flexibility, a sense of humor, openness, and a strong sense of self and faith are needed when working with young people.
God's call to mission and service must be heard by young people today. United Methodist Women can be the group that articulates that call through program, action and service opportunities. God needs each of us to work with our young sisters. Let's renew our commitment to mission and challenge young women to become involved in God's mission in our needy world.
Joyce D. Sohl
Deputy General Secretary