Photographs are available with this story. For related coverage, see UMNS story #367.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
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
No Long Caption Available for this Story
DEARBORN, Mich. (UMNS) - The Rev. Mary Scifres is out to get "seekers."
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.
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.
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.
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.