The Young United Methodists
Young people in The United Methodist Church are missional entrepreneurs, putting passion and resources together to help make holy transformation happen in the church and world.
They are college students. They are young people, moving youth gatherings out of churches to travel into the city to spend time sharing God's love through service. They are youth like those in the East Ohio Conference who put thousands of dollars into local youth-led education, arts and mission projects while sending thousands more to the Youth Service Fund for projects around the world!
These young people, and several million more like them, are helping United Methodists everywhere be the church of Jesus Christ for the world.
Hannah Foust of Carmel, Indiana, has been raising money to build water wells in Burkina Faso since she was in sixth grade. Like many young people today, she saw a need. Her solution grew out of the entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes the millennial generation.
Kevin Sauceda came to the United States as a child with his mother. The first-generation United Methodist provides leadership in his local church and beyond. Now a college freshman, he serves on the Division on Ministries with Young People (DMYP) where his presence adds to the multi-ethnic diversity that increasingly describes our churches and culture.
A lawyer with Justice for Our Neighbors, Julie Flanders serves immigrants in need of legal assistance in Austin, Texas. She represents the college-educated young people who are joining their career with a missional spirit to serve God and others where their gifts and passion can make a difference.
A young United Methodist in Democratic Republic of Congo, Pierre Omadjela works for his annual conference and serves as a member of the DMYP. A recent grant from Young People's Ministries (YPM) allowed him to train thousands of young people in his country on the positives and negatives of the Internet. A father of three, Omadjela stretches time and resources to care for his family and serve God through the church.
Abraham Johnson of Liberia is a graduate of the Young Leader Summit sponsored by YPM. He has spent much of the past nine months educating people in his country about Ebola. Making a difference in the lives of others is a way of life for him.
Charles Boayue III is a Young Clergy Initiative intern in Detroit who connects international students with local United Methodist congregations. Relationships and community are vital to young people today. Boayue is committed to seeing that others in his world have the opportunity to experience that vitality.
In their words ...
During a recent meeting, Young People Ministries' staff – many of whom are young adults – described their peers – and themselves.
We are often the first- or second-generation part of ethnic churches that challenge us to keep our culture and heritage and yet find our place in the mainstream denomination and culture. We are often involved in activities unique to our cultural heritage as United Methodists, such as the Christmas Institute, Spanglish, MARCHA and Pacific Islander Gathering of Youth.
We explore our faith in nontraditional ways. You will find more of us growing and nurturing our faith in small groups that gather at pubs and coffee shops or in knitting groups, running clubs and other interest groups rather than sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. Check out the Kitchen Table groups of Central United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California.
We often combine efforts around the ministry of young people. Two or more churches together create a new faith community around the needs and schedules of young people.
We connect with God's creation. We are campers, counselors and staff. We look for opportunities to unplug and reconnect with God in a real and personal way. Camping and retreats are an important part of our faith formation; they are where many of us hear our call to ministry.
You tell us you want to include young people, that we should be involved in church or that young people are an important part of the future. OK, so what? How will our choosing to be there or becoming involved make any difference, contribute or create change?
We worship in rural churches and in urban churches; large and small, even medium membership, churches. Our home is the country, city and the suburbs. We have appointed youth pastors and paid youth staff, but most serve us out of love.
We meet nearly every day, but especially on Wednesdays and Sundays in church basements, youth houses, youth buildings and a million other places. We meet to gather around the table to share and feel the love of an ever-present God.
We sing in choirs, acolyte and read Scripture as we lead in corporate worship. We give the church our money – and our hopes and dreams for a more perfect church where God's love permeates. We sit on committees where we seek to be heard, not seen and patronized.
We believe in loving and living beyond the church walls. We serve in our schools and communities. We do missions locally, nationally and globally. We are deeply committed to being the hands and feet of the living Christ.
We are not all in college. We did not all go to college. Look for us only in college, and you will miss some great leaders who are ready to invest in something life-changing. Some of us already have families, jobs and hectic schedules. A lot of us are in debt. Some of us can't find work.
We are young, and we like to get things done – now! We are passionate. If you tell us to wait, we will probably try to find a way to live out our passions elsewhere. If you have nothing for us to do when we show up, we probably won't stick around.
We probably won't show up on Sunday. We live far from home and visit our families and friends on the weekends. Some of us also have to work on Sundays. Or, we worked long hours during the week and don't want to get up early. If the church doesn't really do anything meaningful, we will be out running and training for a Relay for Life with our friends. You have to give me a reason to show up and that means you will probably have to show up where I am. Don't expect me to come to you. It's not gonna happen.
We are the lay leader of a local church who dropped out of school to adopt our three siblings because our parents are dead and our sister is in prison. We work hard and need our church community to help us do the impossible.
We run Kickstarter campaigns to raise money for the children in our underfunded school. We helped that same school create a garden for teaching and to alleviate food insecurity.
We gave up everything we had to start a bakery that would help people find jobs and training.
We are poets and prophets coming together in unlikely worship venues like Union Coffee in Dallas or The Shout in Houston.
We want to be in ministry WITH you! We are not looking to be ministered TO. We are not looking for the coolest marketing campaign or the slickest production. We want authenticity in our worship, relationships, service and church structures.
We believe that Jesus loved all and tells us to do the same.
The Rev. Michael Ratliff is associate general secretary, Young People's Ministries, Discipleship Ministries, Nashville, Tennessee.