News Archives

Pastor concentrates on mission field of 'seekers'

7/21/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert (615) 742-5470 Nashville, Tenn.

Photographs are available with this story. For related coverage, see UMNS story #367.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
The Rev. Mary Scifres, right, takes a moment to speak to the Rev. Elizabeth A. Lopez, left, between the contemporary and traditional worship services held Sunday during the biennial convocation of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert. Photo number 03-240, Accompanies UMNS #368
DEARBORN, Mich. (UMNS) - The Rev. Mary Scifres is out to get "seekers."

With a wide-open mission field of people who have no formal religious affiliation but are on a spiritual journey, Scifres sees ample opportunity for the United Methodist Church to fill the pews with people hungry for Christ.

But first, churches must learn to become "seeker friendly," she says.

Scifres, a Seattle pastor and author, led two classes, "Transitions in an Unchurched World: Successfully Seeking Seekers," and "Transitions in Worship: Welcome to the 21st Century!" during the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. The biennial gathering, held July 10-15 in Dearborn, drew 460 people.

She defines seekers as people who are:
· Searching for a spiritual direction and guidance.
· Lacking a current, ongoing relationship with the church.
· Leading value-laden lives, often on a theological or spiritual quest.
· Saints and sinners, just like followers.
· Potential followers of Christ.

Scifres' passion started when she noticed most of her college friends moving into the category of "seekers."

She attended the University of Indianapolis with people who were active and involved in their churches.

"Now the only of my college friends who still go to church are pastors or pastors' wives," she says.

Many fell out of the church because the congregations they attended were not relevant or meaningful to them, she says.

"I have such a passion for wanting them to find what I have found there (in church), which is the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the warm acceptance of the community."

Scifres' classes focused on ways to move toward seeker-friendly churches and reaching seekers of different generations.

"As church participation continues to dwindle, worship style will not matter nearly as much as worship leadership's ability to create worship that is open and inviting to visitors, seekers or new/exploring Christians," she says.

Scifres is author of Searching for Seekers: Ministry With a New Generation of the Unchurched (Abingdon Press, 1998) and is working on a new resource The Abingdon Worship Annual: Contemporary and Traditional Resources for Worship. She is pastor of Port Orchard United Methodist Church in Seattle.

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*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.

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