WAYS: What our congregation does right for young people
"We asked ... you said ..." -- Listen to what Interpreter readers have to say.
Ministry with young people needs to be relational, authentic, transformative and engaging -- say leaders as well as young people themselves. Here is how some United Methodist congregations are reaching out to the youth and young adults in their communities,
What is your congregation doing right with young adults?
You said …
Men's pickup basketball
We host men’s pickup basketball in our gym every Wednesday. We have a turnout of 20-35 young men from our culturally diverse community. Also on Wednesday nights, we hold a Bible study for young adults at a local coffee shop. Fifteen to 25, mostly college students, attend. A church-sponsored softball team engages a dozen young men and women to play in the public league. The team's core of church members commit to setting the standard for Christian conduct as they deliberately recruit outside the church, reaching out in relational discipleship.
David Ames, North Naples (Fla.) United Methodist Church
We have a sports ministry that really rocks. We sponsor coed softball and volleyball teams, and every Saturday morning, we provide a fitness “boot camp” and a PiYo class led by a certified fitness instructor. Our young adults participate and bring their friends. Weekly donations for the classes cover the cost of the instructor and serve as a fundraiser to support other sports ministry activities.
Betsy Boling, Community UMC, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Lunch and childcare
We recently started a Visions and Ventures Group to help organize ideas for getting some life back into our church. One of the things we came up with is getting a young adults group to meet. We have asked two of the members to plan an event for all of them in June with babysitting and lunch help available from the rest of us. We hope this will be the start of something good!
LaNell Fuelberth, Zion United Methodist Church, Archer, Nebraska
Young adult leaders
Two young adult couples in their 20s lead our young adult ministry. They do activities outside of the church like in-home Bible studies during the week. They plan service projects and social activities at local restaurants, taking Jesus to the people instead of waiting for the people to come to them to hear the gospel. They planned an intergenerational Valentine’s Day dinner for the entire church and provided entertainment.
The Rev. Tom Grubbs, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Use gifts and passions
Ironically, the young adults in our church are some of the biggest supporters of traditional worship. We honor their sensibilities in that area and do not assume that only contemporary worship will attract young people. We eagerly include them in all aspects of church leadership as their gifts and passions lead.
Richard J. Hatton, First Unithed Methodist Church, Wellington, Ohio
Connect all ages
The best thing we are doing is empowering the young adults (18-30) to plan, direct and lead their ministry in a way that reaches their age group with their own needs. As a happy result, the young adults have planned things that connect them with the other age groups in the church. Our group grew from zero to 30 in the last year.
Michael Henderson, Highland Park United Methodist Church, Florence, South Carolina
Off-site midweek worship
Our congregation has a late Wednesday evening service off-site for young adults. It includes music, food and fellowship with the worship. We call it a “gathering,” not a service. The youth directors lead with help from the young adults. It is an open group with social media connections.
Eilene Ording, Liberty United Methodist Church, Liberty, Missouri
Young adults invite
Unintentional young adult ministry happened as we hired a college student to be the content provider and chaplain for our youth, our usual strategy. He began inviting college friends for music and content help; we now have as many college students each week as we do middle and high school students! Organize or advertise it? We’ve decided to let it be, while offering enhanced activities just for them as a way to thank and affirm.
The Rev. Gary Olsen, lead pastor, Rolling Hills Community Church [United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ], Lago Vista, Texas
Our neighborhood has a large contingent of Burmese refugees struggling to adapt to American life. Most of the parents have limited English skills, but their children are quick at picking up the new language. The children started coming to our church more than a year ago. At first, they were restless during worship. They have become more attentive and now start our services with a song in English or Matu (their dialect). This interaction is helping the children become more fluent in English, which helps the parents become more fluent.
Fritz Parker, Parker Lane United Methodist Church, Austin, Texas
Trust and flexibility
Trying. My ministry model added flexibility to its core many years ago. Be flexible when you have only three people in church … when you have no gymnasium … when you have no pianist. It works. When it comes to young adults in our churches, we have to be flexible. Give the kitchen and fellowship hall keys to your youth leaders without reservations. Walls can be painted, but lives changed for Jesus Christ may not happen, if we are not flexible. God will honor it all.
The Rev. Dewey L. Shaffer, Estill, Furman and Mount Carmel United Methodist Church, South Carolina
Our congregation includes young adults in a number of ways. They participate in or contribute to U.M. Men and Women ministries. We use fifth Sundays as an open forum to discuss topics that interest young adults. Our active U.M. Youth Fellowship encourages peer interaction. Our youth usher board serves every third Sunday. The youth choir sings every fourth Sunday. During worship, young adults read Scripture and lead prayer. Our youth dance ministry enriches holiday events. Active, vibrant Scouting programs and the monthly Soul Food Ministry reach out to the community.
Bobby White, Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church , Jacksonville, Florida
Located directly across from the local high school, our church has established a relationship with the students and administration. We serve more than 250 cups of hot chocolate each week on “Thirsty Thursday”; invite the students to Walk Over Wednesday (WOW) once a month to sing/perform in a coffeehouse atmosphere and launched Rigley Rebel Rooftop Reachout, where students can watch a baseball game from our rooftop and “skybox” with free hotdogs and popcorn.
Bob Wood, First United Methodist Church, Lansing, Illinois
Goals and resources
We pray for and support the inclusion of young adults within the church by allocating goals and resources toward that generation. The church recently hired a young adult director working full time and made building the young adult community a priority. College students and young couples have a dedicated director to facilitate small groups and Sunday school that is relational to them.
Brooke Yrigoyen, First United Methodist Church. Corpus Christi, Texas