Downtown churches meet growing needs of younger congregations

 

Anthony Rogers, Kaitlyn Bowie and Terence Hagans are among the leaders of the ministry The Source. Photo by Mayra Beltran, Staff Houston Chronicle

Anthony Rogers, Kaitlyn Bowie and Terence Hagans are among the leaders of the ministry The Source. Photo by Mayra Beltran, Staff Houston Chronicle

First United Methodist Church in Houston, a 175 year old congregation, is introducing a new ministry to reach out to the younger generations within their city.

From the Houston Chronicle:

“It will be extremely communal,” Hagans said of the smaller sessions. “It will be more about relationships and how we live our faith in day-to-day life, rather than strictly biblical. There will be ‘radical transparency’ around brokenness, without being judged or condemned.”

Added Rogers, “My background was at a church where there were things you didn’t say. If it dealt with community-related problems or issues, you just kept that stuff buried. Here, you’ll have freedom. You can get it off your chest. You won’t feel alone.”

Downtown, though, seems on the cusp of significant population growth, much of it, church leaders believe, made up of young adults.

“More and more young people are moving closer to downtown and looking for an urban worship environment,” Wende said, adding that the church also has taken steps to improve services for children and youth. “What has impressed me about this church is that the oldest members are not only paying for the changes, they are letting the young ones lead.”

The church now is expending $500,000 to refit the sixth floor of its 104-year-old building for use in the young adult programs.

The Rev. Elaine Heath, a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, said a sense of community is important to young adults returning to city centers. “Twenty-something urbanites tend to have a stronger social conscience than their parents,” she said.

“The church that wishes to reach out to young urbanites needs to understand that they aren’t so worried about the style of worship music as they are about the authenticity of life of the people of the church,” she said. “They want the worship gathering to be meaningful and well-planned, to be sure, but they want the faith community to be a real community, actively involved in both spiritual formation and justice issues in their city and the world.”

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