Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

VIM explores ways to connect with young adults


Following the Plan: This article continues a series focusing on the Oklahoma Conference Strategic Plan. "We want to reach more people, more diverse people, and more young people."—A core belief of the Strategic Plan

By Sarah Malloy Nichols

Working and researching for Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission (VIM), I have learned more than I ever thought possible about Generations X and Y, and how they and the Church relate to one another.

First of all, it is important to understand that Generations X and Y live up to and falsify their stereotypes.

While both generations tend to earn their "me generation" titles, they are also extremely concerned with serving others and leaving this world better than they found it.

Although both generations are considered "digital natives," they do not necessarily need technology to saturate their worship experiences. To attract Generations X and Y, care must be taken to provide more substance than a coffee shop and a couple of screens.

Volunteers In Mission would like to take further action by including them (in larger numbers) in our mission trips.

Secondly, what is keeping young adults out of church and, more specifically, VIM?

According to an Interpreter article*, people of that age group "have not rejected spirituality. What they’ve rejected is the tradition and what they perceive to be the hypocrisy of the Church."

The same article stresses that Generation Y is "the most civic-minded since the generation of the 1930s and ’40s. This is a generation of activist doers."

What both quotes mean for VIM is that we have a leg up! VIM is an organization of "activist doers" with an eye toward Christian service.

I suggest that VIM and the Oklahoma United Methodist Church consider what forms of "hypocrisy" young adults might perceive from us and continue to be in conversation with younger adults about what must be done to be perceived as a community that is open and genuine.

So, let’s converse …

According to a USA Today study of over 1,800 [members of] Generation Y, 61 percent of 13- to 25-year-olds feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world.

The same article indicates that 81 percent of that group volunteered in the past year.

Young adults are volunteering, and they do feel responsible for a positive impact on our world; they’re just not all participating in religious-led volunteer/mission groups.

So, what do I propose?

  • The young-adult retreats we began in Spring 2010 continue. I passed on the curriculum Jeremy Basset and I created, and I hope to see the retreats grow as a ministry to and from young adults and young-adult workers.

  • Oklahoma churches work with VIM to improve young-adult participation in missions and the local church.

  • On a grassroots level, every VIM team (both domestic and international) include a scholarship for a young adult to join in the mission.

    The Interpreter article confirms that young adults are "looking for things that allow them to get outside the church to do things," but adds that they feel unable to give a substantial tithe and/or participate in expensive mission trips.

    The article suggests, "Opportunities to share time and energy might overcome insecurity about small donations, a barrier that can keep them out of church."

  • Lastly, I ask that VIM encourage intergenerational mission trips.

    When I was 18, I went on an intergenerational VIM trip to South Africa (a graduation gift to me from an older woman in my church). As I worked alongside the retiree volunteers of our Conference, my hope and faith that the Church is an ever-evolving work of God was renewed in their encouragement and love. That mission trip changed my life.

    Generation X refers generally to people born between 1961 and 1981. Generation Y members are younger than that population and often called the Millennials.

    I am certain that young-adult participation will improve in the Church as well as within VIM if the entire Conference works to encourage inter-generational mission teams. These teams will eliminate generational stereotypes and prejudices, and they will allow young adults to see a side of the Church they may have not perceived. I am confident these teams will provide vital service to the life of our Church and the organization by renewing and encouraging all who participate.

I believe in the Oklahoma Church’s power to turn this issue upside-down and transform it into blessing. I leave you with the confidence of my youth and the faith of my elders.


This article is excerpted from a report by Sarah Nichols during her internship with VIM, and leaders of that ministry are drawing on its insights as their programming moves forward. She is a former co-chair of the Young Adult Ministry Council.

*Interpreter is the denomination’s bimonthly ministry magazine. Story was "(Not) Talkin’ ’Bout My Generation."

Mission service in July by Oklahoma young adults boosted progress on a new sanctuary for El Camino church in Reynosa, Mexico. Sponsored by the Young Adults Council and led by Andy Henson of Tahlequah, the team built concrete-block walls on the church’s rooftop terrace and did stucco work. Temporary pews in the new building are among these images. One day, women of the church made tamales for the team, whose members were: Duncan Kilgore, Adam Hughes, Carlita Crook, Brent Huggins, Brian Ivey, Desiree Sharp, Jeff Jaynes, and Henson.


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