Seek to attract children, young people

11/6/2007

By Rev. Embra Jackson

Conference Staff


Editor's Note: Last in a series of article son the A2 Indicators.

 

A recent article in the Hinds Community College magazine Hindsight titled “Couple out to inspire others to reach their potential” tells the story of how one of the college’s instructors helped transform Terica and Willie McKennis’ lives from hopelessness and despair to hope, enthusiasm and possibilities.

 

The transformation occurred when they were students at the Hinds Community College, Jackson Campus. They credit Angela Griffin, their business technology instructor, with leading them in this transformation.

 

Willie says that Griffin “…was someone that saw beyond (my gold teeth, my clothes, my drug dealing and tough life). So one day after class I went to her and opened up to her…This was the turning point in (my) life.”

 

Today Willie and his wife, Terica, who was also a student in Griffin’s class at the time, have become an inspiration to other young persons. They both graduated from Hinds and have obtained both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Willie has also written a book about his life, and he and Terica have become inspirational speakers for children, youth and young adults.

We in the Mississippi Annual Conference are fortunate that Griffin is a United Methodist. She is a member of Anderson UMC in Jackson.

 

What does Griffin’s story have to with A2? Everything.

 

This story exemplifies how one person can make a difference in the life of a young person, and that person can in turn pass that blessing on to many other people. The results from the A2 Indicators reveal that as the average age of many of our church members continues to increase, we are challenged to develop ministries that are appealing to children and youth. However, we are called by Jesus to be engaged with these ministries (Luke 18:15-17). In addition to our calling, it is practical to be engaged in ministries with children and youth. If churches are not, they cannot expect to have young families as members.

 

Without the addition of this population into our churches, the likelihood of continued, long-term ministry is greatly diminished.

 

Some may be saying:

  • “We just do not have any children or youth in our community.”
  • “If the parents of these youth and children want them in church all they have to do is bring them.”
  • “If they are quiet and respect the way we do things, then they are welcome here.”

Such statements must be challenged if we are to become the “Church for All of God’s Children.”

At a recent Transformational Leaders’ School training event, the presenter showed a video clip about a church that was experiencing numerical decline and average age of member increase. In other words, the church members were getting older and they had very few persons joining the church.

 

The patriarch of the church and a small group of leaders visited a “growing” church across town. They were upset by the type of music, order of worship and dress that was a part of this congregation. However, they were amazed at the number of young persons who worshiped there and who accepted Christ as their savior during their visit.

 

As a result, they decided to go back to their church and create a worship service for young persons that included a live band. As the video clip ended, the church patriarch is seen with ear plugs in his ears during one of the youth worship services. He said, “I still do not like that loud music. However, if that is what it takes to win these young persons to Christ I’m all for it.”

 

In order to obtain assistance with creating such ministries or to assist your church in becoming a place where children and youth are welcome and are a part of the life of your church, the following resources and persons are available to assist you:

 

The General Board of Discipleship offers a large number of resources about children and youth ministries at www.gbod.org.

  • The Lewis Center for Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.com
  • Roger Shock (young people’s ministry), roger@mississippi-umc.org.
  • Michelle Foster (Safe Sanctuaries), michelle@mississippi-umc.org
  • Cassandra Welchin (Congregations for Children legislative liaison), cassandra_welchin@yahoo.com

In addition, you may wish to contact churches in the conference that are involved in active youth and children’s ministries. Samuel Chapel UMC in Itta Bena under the leadership of the Rev. Marjorie Walker is such a church.

 

Jackson is administrative assistant to the bishop.