Young people share dreams for new ministries

Four young people, sitting on a stage, painted a picture of the future of the United Methodist Church using the collected dreams of hundreds of youth, young adults and young adult workers.

The Shared Mission Focus on Young People, an initiative of the United Methodist Church since 1996, is bringing legislation to the denomination's 2004 General Conference to create a Division on Ministries with Young People. The division would be at the United Methodist Board of Discipleship in Nashville, Tenn.

Since 2001, the Shared Mission Focus leaders have been gathering dreams on their Web site, www.idreamachurch.com. They shared some of those dreams during the Pre-General Conference News Briefing, held Jan. 29-31 in Pittsburgh.

  • "I dream a church that would look upon everyone and see only what God sees."
  • "I dream a church where young people across the global village are celebrated as partners in service for Christ."
  • "I dream a church where young adults are welcome not just in speech but in action."
  • "I dream a church where young people's call to ministry is recognized and encouraged without taking into account their age."

Two young people, John and Charles Wesley, dreamed a church into being, said Jay Williams, co-leader of the Shared Mission Focus on Young People. "It was at the ages of 22 and 26 that our church's founders stood to witness a change that God was making through them and the church.

"We too are dreamers."

Williams was one of the four panelists discussing the legislation to create the new division. The event, sponsored by United Methodist Communications, was in preparation for the denomination's top legislative body, meeting April 27-May 7.

Along with Williams, the panelists included Julie O'Neal, co-leader of the Shared Mission Focus on Young People, Analisa Trejo, president of the United Methodist Youth Organization, and Ciona Rouse, director of the Shared Mission Focus on Young People.

The 2000 General Conference charged the Shared Mission Focus on Young People to create a comprehensive, coordinated approach to enhancing the ministries with young people, O'Neal said.

"What we bring to you today is a response to that charge," she said. "What we envision is a denominational strategy, a body of the general agencies, whose purpose is to empower young people as world-changing disciples of Jesus Christ."

Williams said support for the new division is so strong that two current organizations -the United Methodist Youth Organization and the Forum for Adult Workers in Youth Ministry - have decided to disband if the new division is approved in order to be better stewards of the church's funds.

The team's research shows that while the general church offers many opportunities for youth and young adults, those ministries remain disconnected, and often the message does not reach the local church, Rouse said.

"The division will serve as a central place for youth, young adults and workers with young adult ministries to find direction for their ministries," she said.

O'Neal asked, "Do you know a young person who was active in youth but disappeared after they graduated from high school? If this is familiar to you, know that your church is not alone."

The division will work to reach those young adults, ages 18 to 30, who often feel disconnected from the church in that phase of their lives. The church does a good job of reaching out to college students through Wesley foundations and campus ministers and chaplains, but what is there for those who choose a different path? O'Neal asked.

"The division will make a clear statement that the denomination is committed to ministries with young people," said Trejo. "Through the division, the church will recognize young people's desire to be in leadership."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.  News media can contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].

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