By Karen Hayden
My family has come to expect “Dave’s famous pico de gallo” at every large family event.
My husband, Dave, likes to make pico, but he doesn’t have a hard recipe for it. Often, as he patiently and intently dices, slices and tastes his way to making the recipe, he asks, “What is missing?” Then, he will dice, slice and shake until he arrives at the perfect blend.
As I have been in the Missouri Conference the past four years, I have come to know congregations that aren’t looking for prescribed, easy or trite recipes for “growing their church.” Instead, I have been gladdened by the churches that notice, “Someone is missing.” For different churches this means different people are missing. Nonetheless, the intentional congregations seek to acknowledge, welcome, disciple and develop such persons.
None of this is easy or fast. Nothing intentional ever is. First, a congregation has to notice that someone is missing. Perhaps we have sensed that something has not been right but we haven’t taken the time to claim who the “who” is in our ministries settings.
For congregations that discern their missing persons are college-age persons (persons ~18-25 years of age), the next step of welcoming them can seem overwhelming as many Millennials aren’t even curious about what is happening in our edifices. And many of the people we are “missing” don’t even know what they are missing. (Let’s be honest, given our practice of church, some days we have to ask ourselves if they are missing anything at all.) Millennials have never lived in a church-centered world and many are not really sure what church is all about. So, to simply say they need to come to church is bewildering.
The Church must acknowledge the Millennial’s existence and make a connection. Missouri United Methodist Churches that have sought to make a connection with college-age persons have done that in a variety of ways. For some, it means a dramatic shift in the way in which they offer worship. For others, it means intentionally sharing missional opportunities with young persons in their community—whether or not the young persons are active in the congregation. Some churches have coordinated mentor programs for/with younger and more seasoned adults. As ministries have acknowledged and challenged themselves in certain areas, they have come to see where they are making strides and places where they could be stronger and broader in their connections with young adults.
For churches that are looking for ways to broaden their outreach and deepen their disciple practices, the office of Next Generation ministry is preparing a pilot program to strengthen and support them in ministries to younger persons. Part of the program calls for each local church to look at their demographics, traditions, facilities, finances, staffing and the ministry’s action plan to reach the next generation. From there, the program seeks to equip staff (paid and unpaid) working with the next generation so that they can be more fruitful and navigate the cultural shifts to be more effective. If you and/or your church would like more information about this program, contact the Catalyst for Next Generation Ministry, Rev. Garrett Drake (email@example.com).
When contemplating “who is missing” and the potential of the Church empowered by God, Garrett says, “Culture finds its true potential when God blesses it with God’s presence and we offer it in its transformed form as a gift back to humanity. We must see the great opportunity we have here as God uses the United Methodist Church to usher God’s presence back into the world for the next generation.”
In the end, our acknowledgment of the missing persons might lead to the delectable blend we have been yearning for all along. May we be blessed in our search.