Mountain Sky creates grant-funded staff position within Young People's Ministries

April 24, 2020
Courtney VonLindern joined the Mountain Sky staff as the new Designer for NextGen and Inclusiveness Ministries.
On Friday, April 24, the Mountain Sky Conference announced Courtney VonLindern as the new Designer for NextGen and Inclusiveness Ministries. 

In order to continue fulfilling the conference vision to have life-changing, life-saving mission outposts in the communities we serve, the conference received grant-funding in late 2019 to hire a part-time person to minister within the Mountain Sky Conference to LGBTQIA+ young people (ages 14 to 25). This role is called the Designer for NextGen and Inclusiveness Ministries. This position has a dual function: to provide education and resourcing for local churches regarding ministries with/for/by LGBTQIA+ young people; and to create communities for young people, especially partnering with campus ministries, to reach younger generations who may have never heard Christ's message of love and grace for all people.

Why NextGen and Inclusiveness Ministries?

Bishop Karen Oliveto shared the following information on the need to reach young people: "Thanks to a local church, the conference received a grant for the creation of this position because the church recognized we are not effectively sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with young people. The message that young people are receiving from the church has been harmful. This point was highlighted in a book, UnChristian, which was produced by an evangelical Christian organization called The Barna Group. Because of their work in studying young people, all of us in the church have much to learn as we seek to provide a spiritual home for young people. (Go online for more on UnChristian.)

We also recognize that LGBTQ young people are among the most vulnerable that Jesus calls us to care for. Studies show that LGBTQ young people experience a higher rate of bullying and homelessness than their straight peers. Additionally, a disproportionate number of LGBTQ young people attempt or succeed at suicide. Supportive adults as well as faith communities literally save lives. That is why we were called to create the position of Designer for NextGen and Inclusiveness Ministries."

Why the use of pronouns?

To fully embrace the Mountain Sky Conference's values of "inclusivity ... and honoring diverse voices and ideas," the announcement included VonLindern's pronouns of "they/them." The Pacific Northwest Conference shared this helpful article by the Rev. Ann Lock with a glossary of terms and usage for our LGBTQIA siblings. (Download a PDF version of it)

Regarding pronouns:

"If you don’t know what pronouns someone prefers, it is 100% okay to simply ask them, “What pronouns do you use?” Then use what they tell you.

If you guess wrong, or forget to use the correct pronoun and the person corrects you, don’t make it a big deal. Just apologize, say “thanks” for the correction, (as you would if you called someone “Dan” whose name is “Stan” and he corrected you) and move on.

Many cultures have gender-neutral pronouns for people, in addition to feminine and masculine. In English, gender-neutral pronouns (it/its) are for objects, not people. So, people who don’t identify as a “her” or a “him” are left with “they/them” as the best pronouns we’ve got right now. Many queer people prefer “they/them” as pronouns. For those who have been used to using they/them only as a plural, this can initially feel strange and takes a lot of practice.

Language changes over time; allowing room for pronouns is a simple act of hospitality. It’s worth the effort.