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Young adults seek to put faith into action, leader says

Elaine de Leon attends the Young Adult Leaders Summit in Nashville, Tenn., sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.
UMNS photos by Jeanette Pinkston.

By Linda Green*
Dec. 10, 2007 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Young adults today want to be involved in mission and service, and they represent "a passionate movement" in the church, a United Methodist executive says.

Young adults are living out their faith every day by being active participants in their own life stories, said Bill Lizor, director of Young Adult and Single Adult Ministries at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

"This isn't a generation of people wanting to sit in the pews and consume worship," he said. "Today's young adults want to be out in the fields, active in mission and service, taking the faith they were handed down as children and adding their own hands and feet."

Although "faith" as a concept, may look different manifested this way, it is "a passionate movement and reclaiming of Christian tradition that is setting young people on fire to be the today's church."

Bill Lizor, director of the board's Young Adult and Single Adult Ministries, presents "Effective Models of Young Adult Ministry."

The Board of Discipleship brought nearly 80 United Methodist young adult leaders from across the United States together in November for a weekend of networking and sharing about their ministries. The Nov. 15-17 gathering was the second Young Adult Leaders Summit.

With the growth in popularity of Young Adult Ministries in The United Methodist Church, numerous annual (regional) conferences are developing ministries to young adults, which the denomination defines as people between 18 and 30. Leadership summits provide a place for annual conference teams to engage in training and dialogue around such topics as theology, practice, ministry models, discipleship and leadership.

'Take action'

The Rev. Vance Ross, a discipleship staff executive, challenged the young leaders to take the initiative and to make a difference today. "Now is the time for young adults to take action."

Several ministries from across the denomination were invited to share about what they are doing for young adult ministry. The ministries included:

  • Emerge Detroit, a citywide network of churches and ministries engaged in young adult ministry.
  • North Georgia Annual Conference, which is developing a model for young adult leader training, as well as marketing, podcasts and Web sites designed to include young adults in the annual conference process.
  • The Bishop's Initiative of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, which placed four young adults in an intentional community and service setting for a year. The program is being re-evaluated and seeking further funding so it can continue.
  • The Division on Ministries with Young People, which introduced the new Young Adult Network, a Web-based portal for young adults at www.gbod.org/youngpeople/yanet.
  • The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, which shared what it is doing in the area of developing young adult women.

Developing a model

To get an overview of current research, the group viewed the video, "Generation Next: Speak Up, Be Heard," a research project developed by PBS and Films for the Humanities and Sciences.

According to the PBS Web site, "the aim of the Generation Next initiative is to unravel this generation of young people who are hooked to technology, generally supportive of gay rights and racial differences, partial to postponing adulthood and swamped in debt." The film provided the young adult leaders with information about recent research.

Elaine de Leon said she was glad the video talked about "the economic debt because that's a reality that is 'under-talked' about."

De Leon, of the Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference and seminary student at Wesley Seminary in Washington, said she senses "that people believe that young adults leave the church to pursue careers — because that's so much more important to them — and to climb the corporate ladder. Some of the reality is that you have to have the job to pay off your college loans," she said.

Following a session on "Effective Models of Young Adult Ministry," participants engaged in conversation around developing a theology for young adult ministry and a group process to identify resourcing needs.

Young adult ministry development, as an emphasis of the church, has emerged within the last 10 years. There has not been a lot of research into what a biblical model for young ministry would look like, and the summit conversations are beginning the process of developing a foundation, Lizor said.

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn. Jeanette Pinkston, director of media relations for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, contributed to this story.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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