Young adults reflect challenges of diversity


By Mark Bearden
Special to the Advocate

A varied group of young adults introduced themselves to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference,  illustrating the vast diversity of young people who can be reached by the church.

A wife, a college student, a young man recently divorced starting a second career, a US-2 missionary, a student taking a year off from college to work in camping ministry, a father with three children selling everything to go to seminary, along with other young persons, set the stage for Phoebe Hathorn of Mississippi who said it was difficult to minister to young adults today because of all the differences.

“Ministry to this singular group has been such a challenge,” said Hathorn on July 17. “We are so different and so alike. It is almost impossible creating ministry that appeals to young people.”

She said young people are more comfortable with liberalization and new ways of doing things. Yet, one in five young adults have no religious affiliation or are agnostic. Only 4 percent of young adults say becoming more spiritual is important.

“Perhaps we should be more focused on the young people who are filling our pews and those who are not,” she said.

Hathorn urged local churches to offer varying styles of worship, permanent college student classes, additional meeting times for young adults to gather, contemporary worship songs, nurseries for children and other ministries that would be appealing.

Citing I Corinthians, Hathorn reminded the assembly that young adults are a vital part of the body of Christ. “We are all one body, a body that cannot function without all of its parts. We cannot simply look at one another and say we don’t need you,” she said. “Young adults are the past, present and future of The United Methodist Church. We’ve already been in this church. We are the church today and we will continue to be the church of tomorrow.”

Bearden is director of communications for the Western North Carolina Conference.