In Suzanne Ocsai's new book "Something’s Happening: The Behind the Scenes Story of GYC," she delves into the history of the Generation of Youth Conference (GYC) with commentary on church politics. Her story sends two strong messages. The first is young people can, and do, make an influential difference in the world. The second, whether intentional or not, is the General Conference (GC) youth department is not an effective ministry. To clarify: GYC, formerly General Youth Conference, is not a part of the GC. It describes itself as a "youth-initiated and-led movement of Seventh-day Adventists from diverse backgrounds, united in a common commitment to serious Bible study, intense prayer, uncompromising lifestyle, and boldness in sharing Christ with others."
GYC history is steeped in church politics. The young people that started GYC didn’t fully understand how church hierarchy worked. As the organization developed, the GC thought that GYC was trying to draw people away from church ministry. The church knew little about GYC at its start. They only knew it influenced more and more youth each year, and that they had no control over it, but eventually, their miscommunication was resolved. Now GYC and GC have an open understanding, but disagreements between the two groups are an undeniable part of GYC history. Ocsai correctly included the disagreements and misunderstandings in her book, but I wonder if they could have been portrayed with better balance.
Ocsai’s book made it very clear the GC and GYC have different views on youth ministry. In the book, the “entertainment model used by the church” is often mentioned in a poor light. GYC is featured as a more meaningful worship experience than what the church has to offer. As is to be expected, the book shared incredible stories of faith, but by highlighting positive GYC experiences and then condemning the GC youth ministry's style, with no mention of the GC's positive work, the GC becomes a type of bad guy in the book.
As is outlined in the book, GYC sent out a very unintentional vibe of “us-verses-them” and “we are better than you.” The church felt this vibe and reacted accordingly.
Ocsai ended the book with a note of apology from the GC to GYC, adding to the feeling that "Something’s Happening" should have been subtitled “Behind the Scenes of GYC and GC relations.” Ending the book with church's apology seemed to put the church in a poor light. Throughout the book, Ocsai showcases the great work GYC accomplished and compared it to the GC model of evangelism without telling any of the good work the GC evangelism has accomplished. It seemed one-sided. Perhaps Ocsai didn’t intend her book to portray the church in this light, but the message still comes across.
That being said, the story does include a strong message of youth leadership. It is inspirational to see how a group of young people can accomplish many great things. One can’t help but think, “If they could do this, what could God do through me?”
Ocsai is a very talented writer, and aside from a few editorial errors, she writes with a clear voice. The story moves easily and is an inspiration to those who might feel they don’t have the power to accomplish great things.
Overall, "Something’s Happening: The Behind the Scenes Story of GYC" is an interesting and at times inspirational story. One should read it with an open mind, and be willing to look deeper into church history for a more complete story.
Makala Coleman is a journalism student at Southwestern Adventist University.