Connectional YPD Column
Why We Need the YPD
By Richard Norris, III
Connectional YPD Global Social Relations Committee Chair
The beginnings of the Women’s Missionary Society date back to 1874 with the creation of the Women’s Parent Mite Missionary Society. As was the custom of the AME Church, whenever a senior organization was formed, the next concern was for children and young people of the Church. That’s why in May of 1944, after many years and much renaming, the Young People’s and Children’s Division (YPD) was officially adopted and merged with the Women’s Missionary Society. Since then, the YPD has served as the official youth organization of the Church. However, I believe that as the years have passed, members of our Zion have lost respect for the organization.
The 6th Episcopal District YPD President Jeremy Satterwhite once posed a question to the 6th District WMS, “Where are your children?” The WMS is the parent organization to the YPD. If no one else supports the YPD’s efforts, the WMS does (or at least, they should). Be that as it may, in recent years, the missionaries seemingly have “lost” their children. The Connectional YPDers feel that the age limit of the YPD should not be changed from 2-26 to 2-21 because such a change would lead to the destruction of the YPD. We need the YPDers ages 22-26 to give guidance to younger YPDers and serve as some of the elected and appointed officers of the YPD. Yet, at recent Quadrennial Conventions, legislation was brought to the floor suggesting that very change. Thankfully, these attempts never passed. YPDers are still concerned that these attempts to change the age continue to be submitted. Serious dialogue needs to take place before the WMS really “loses” their youth ages 22-26.
I thank God for the clergy and leaders of other components of our Church who actively support the YPD in their communities. Unfortunately, that is not the case everywhere. Sometimes, YPDers get little to no support from clergy, missionaries, or any other components. Some local churches do not have an active YPD. This problem is two-fold. On the one hand, some congregations have youth but do not have a formally active YPD. On the other hand, some congregations do not have any youth to create or sustain an active YPD. In order to fix this, churches need to prioritize the local organization. Nothing else can exist without the local church. Local congregations must develop new ways of drawing in youth or the future of our church is dim.
I have always loved the YPD. Whether it’s a local meeting or the Connectional Leadership Training Institute (LTI), I’ve always been excited about YPD gatherings. This organization has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and form long-lasting friendships. The YPD also taught me about the AME Church. I learned about Richard and Sarah Allen, the Free African Society, and the foundations of the AME Church in YPD workshops.
I have high hopes for our great Zion. I want to see it grow and excel in every way imaginable. This year, we entered into the third century of global witness and ministry in the world but we won’t survive much longer if we do not prioritize the youth of the Church.