By Elizabeth Fink
Would you believe me if I told you that from the age of 18 to the present, I have had at least 13 different addresses and attended eight different churches? I think it is safe to say that I had good reason to refer to myself as a nomad during my early adult years. Each place I lived offered its own unique experiences and has helped develop me into the person I am today. However, there is one challenge that presented itself everywhere I went, and that was the lack of a peer group or community of young adults that shared similar foundational beliefs. Many young adults find it difficult to cultivate that kind of formational community in or around the Church.
From my perspective, United Methodism does not offer a strong young adult ministry. The UMC’s “Young People’s Ministries” mainly focuses on children and youth. Young adults are often tacked onto that group because they don’t know where else to put them. In most churches, no one really knows what to do with young adults, so they either get ignored or attached to another group. There is a wide gap between youth ministry, college ministry, and young adult ministry, and yet churches often think of them in the same category.
What made it more difficult for me to find community was that even if I did find a young adult group, it either leaned theologically more progressive or functioned solely as a social club, with too much virtue signaling and not enough Jesus. I remember thinking to myself on a fairly regular basis, “Am I really the only traditional Methodist young adult around?” On occasion I did find another traditional young adult in UMC circles, and it was the Holy Spirit that led us to find one another. We were drawn to each other like bees to honey.
It wasn’t until I joined the WCA and got more involved that I truly began to feel like I wasn’t alone. I met more and more young adults who were seeking the same kind of community and foundation of faith I was. Many of these are spread out across the United States and even around the world, so when the idea of starting a young adult group was brought up in the WCA, I thought, “This is brilliant!”
We are in the beginning stages of creating a group called the Young Adult Methodist Connection. The Wesleyan Covenant Association sees and acknowledges the struggle for young adults to find and connect with one another and wants to help link those clergy and laity who are under the age of 40 and interested in joining the Global Methodist Church. By leaving young adults without a deep faith resource to turn to, the UMC has inadvertently stirred up a holy discontented generation of young adults who crave a deep relationship with the living Christ and are motivated to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.
The WCA’s hope is that no one will feel alone or isolated, and that young adults won’t struggle to find others in the GMC like them who are strong in their foundation of biblical faith. This is especially important now because many of us are feeling the effects of being caught up in the toxic environment that is found throughout the UMC as it struggles with splitting. When it comes to what a young adult group needs to look like, some words that are familiar to a lot of us come to mind: “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.” More than ever, young adults need a space where they are encouraged and can serve as an encouragement through prayer, testimony, and having a safe space to ask questions and to discern.
There will be opportunities for general group gatherings with the potential for events specifically geared towards young adult clergy, seminary students, and lay leaders. We will keep you informed on new developments and upcoming events. Be on the lookout for information regarding Zoom meetings, and There will be an in-person gathering next Thursday over lunch during the upcoming New Room Conference. RSVP for the lunch meeting here.
One of the exciting parts of developing this fellowship from the ground up is that we have a chance to shape it from the beginning. It will be a global community of young adults formed and led BY young adults. If you’d like to be part of forming a movement from the very beginning, now is the time to get involved.
I’m looking forward to meeting and connecting with more young adults like me spread out over the connection. We are a generation of leaders ready to enter a new denomination with excitement about the future!
If you are interested in being a part of this group or have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The young adult Facebook page may be accessed here. Feel free to share this article with young adults in your congregation or family.
Elizabeth Fink is a student at Asbury Theological Seminary and the secretary of the WCA’s Global Council. Photo: Shutterstock.