7:00 A.M. EST July 30, 2010
Many United Methodist churches are reaching young adults by meeting
outside church walls in places such as bars and restaurants. A Web-only
illustration by iStock photo.
Take one part God, one part theological questions and one part food
and drink. Stir gently, then pour a way to reach young adults outside
the church walls.
United Methodist churches from Georgia to Wisconsin are finding one
way to draw people into conversations about God and Scripture is to
invite them out for a drink.
Several churches have adapted an idea started about 30 years ago by
the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago called Theology on Tap. Monthly
meetings are held in bars or restaurants. Everyone is invited and the
subject is always God.
Beer and theology might be an uncomfortable combination for some
United Methodists, but the pastors mixing the two say the rewards are
too great to pass up.
The idea behind Theology on Tap is that people do yearn for deep
theological conversations about things that matter to them, but the
church isn’t the first place they think about to have those chats.
“People are hungry for those conversations and for some, having it
in a bar or pub or other casual environment is not something they get
to do very often,” said Adam Walker Cleaveland, minister for youth and
young adults at Asbury United Methodist Church, Livermore, Calif.
Cleaveland facilitates the monthly Theology Pub gatherings.
“I have made interesting connections with people who are members of
the church who come to this, but I don’t see as often on Sunday
mornings,” he added.
Safe, loving environment
The United Methodist Church has a long history of recommending
abstinence from alcoholic beverages and formed a Board of Temperance,
Prohibition and Public Morals in 1916.
This Theology Pub logo is found on the new outreach and ministry
Facebook page of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore, Calif.
A Web-only photo courtesy of Adam Walker Cleaveland.
At the same time, the church says, “Persons who practice abstinence
should avoid attitudes of self-righteousness that express moral
superiority and condemnatory attitudes to those who do not choose to
abstain.” (2008 Book of Resolutions #3042)
The Rev. Kaye Glennon, pastor of Franksville (Wis.) United Methodist
Church, said she wanted to start an outreach group like Theology on
Tap for a long time, but was concerned about “flak” from the
“As it turns out, I got very little, if any,” she said. “We’re all
conscious that this is not an occasion for getting drunk, but for a
social drink, some appetizers and some really interesting discussions
Participants discuss topics such as heaven and hell, images of God, intuition and being happy.
John Blimling, 25, a member of Franksville, started going to the monthly gatherings to meet people in the church.
“I have found that I enjoy the meetings,” he said. “We
oftentimes spend the entire two hours discussing one question and all
of its tangents. I find it stimulating hearing the many different
viewpoints that get offered up, and the whole interactive feel of it
makes it a nice change of pace from a standard sermon.”
Another member, Betsy Welch, 31, said the monthly gatherings are “a
night out in a safe and loving environment that gets me thinking.”
‘Cool thing’ to do
Christine Humrichouse, an ordained deacon at Solon (Iowa) United
Methodist Church, was part of a Theology on Tap group while she was in
seminary and wanted to start one when she got to Solon.
“There are some people who have hesitated to be part of other groups
here in the church because they think, ‘I don’t know anything,’” she
said. “This takes some of the edge off; we are just sitting around
having conversations and everyone has something to contribute.
Participants gather for a Theology Pub session. A Web-only photo courtesy of Adam Walker Cleaveland.
“We gather at a local business, have munchies and whatever and talk God stuff.”
At Christ United Methodist Church, Greensboro, N.C., no one
offered resistance to the idea of meeting in a bar, said the Rev. John
“In fact, most everyone thinks it is a cool thing for us to do. Some
have suggested that it is very much in the spirit of John Wesley who
went to where the people were rather than waiting for them to come to
him,” he said.
Young adults at the Franksville congregation said the program makes church a bigger part of their daily lives.
“I think this is a great fellowship opportunity for
other churches that are looking for a unique way to get more people
involved ... not necessarily just the young adults, but I think that is
probably the group that would find it most interesting,” Welch said.
“I have talked with some of my friends outside of our congregation
and they think it is ‘cool’ that our church has it and seem very
curious about it.”
*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter of 18-34 content at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.