As the result of concern among the wider meeting membership regarding the spiritual welfare, and the physical whereabouts of our young adult members, Care and Counsel began a year-long focused effort to connect to every one of our young adult members.
Our intention was to reach out and maintain contact individually. While our young members were having adventures, in school, traveling the world and starting careers and even families, we wanted about what they were doing and we wanted them know to know the Meeting valued them.
While this effort was also, in part, motivated by a concern for the general state of the meeting and our spiritual and financial sustainability and stewardship as a community, we recognize these young people are the future of the Meeting.
How could we reach out to our young adult Friends, people we all knew and remembered in ways which were effective while at the same time being sensitive to the current state of their spiritual journey?
We began by exploring every possible way to make connections. We sent emails, used Facebook, made phone calls and wrote notes, where addresses were available. We networked outside of our committee to gather information about young adult Friends we’d not heard from in many years. We tried using non-traditional searches and sources of information and we also gathered new demographic information about these Friends for our meeting directory.
Our queries and questions to our young adults were open ended: “How are you doing? What’s going on with you? What’s happening in your life?” Our first task in reconnecting was to listen. We wanted our contact to foster an atmosphere that signaled that our approach was primarily to hear each young Friend’s story. We weren’t calling to talk about their responsibilities to meeting.
As a result, we had some very lovely and at times illuminating conversations. We even had one young Friend who agreed to write an update about herself for the meeting newsletter. We were able to re-establish contact with some. With permission, news was shared in our meeting’s Newsletter. More than one young adult Friend mentioned being contacted when returning during the Thanksgiving break.
While we did not hear back from every young adult Friend, we made an effort to reach each person over the course of a year. We felt we accomplished our goals and will repeat our efforts in the future.
Of course, for many meeting members, the question of connecting to our young adult Friends and their financial stewardship of the meeting where they belong as members is an on-going concern.
This year the Finance Committee, created a different Annual Appeal letter to be sent to those young Friends along with the Meeting Directory. This letter asks for news that could be shared in the Meeting Newsletter. It does not ask for a big financial contribution. But, it reminds our young adults that supporting the meeting financially, is also a good way to stay connected to the life of the meeting.
Overall, we have found that even if you only do it once, (or once every few years) making a special effort to connect to your meeting’s young adult Friends has its own rewards. And, they can be wonderful. At Radnor, some of our young adults who had moved back into the area have returned to meeting. This is especially gratifying to those of us who knew them as youngsters.
This type of reward is more often the result of a determined strategy to carefully nurture relationships over a life time, theirs and ours. To this end, Radnor meeting hired a Young Friends Coordinator with the intention of engaging and grounding our children, especially our teens in the community of Quaker faith and practice so that a bond is created which will sustain them as they move through life.
Friends need to think about providing this kind of spiritual sustenance before the crisis of membership becomes overwhelming. At Radnor, we have been thinking about how to do this. We have also taken actions which are beginning to generate positive outcomes for our community.
By Kathleen Folwell, is the clerk of the Radnor Meeting Care & Counsel Committee.