Young adults asked to consider the call
By Vicki Brown
Speaker after speaker told young adults attending Exploration 2011 that The United Methodist Church needs them to carry God’s word to their own generation.
The 650 people attending the national event, in St. Louis, Mo., in early November, included these Oklahomans: Kaela Patterson, Sarah Trammell, Ismael Carillo, Eddie Martin, Jose Bocanegra, Tari Carbaugh, Elizabeth Horton-Ware, Michael Bartley, Andrew Miller, Jeremy Smith, and Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
During the event, four young clergy were asked to be official bloggers. One of them was Rev. Smith, associate pastor at Checotah-First UMC. He said blogging in real time encouraged reflection by offering another point of view and connected people during the event.
He also presented a workshop focused on social media and best practices for reaching young adults. Rev. Smith said one person tweeted, "Social media makes church not a one-day-a-week thing any more for young adults."
In addition to blogging and tweeting, QR (Quick Response) codes were used. Each Explo participant had a QR code on his or her nametag; contact info could be exchanged by simply scanning the code with a smartphone. All exhibitors also had QR codes, linking to related websites and other information.
The culmination of the discernment event, sponsored every two years by the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry, was an evening commitment service. A total of 172 young adults signed cards declaring they felt called to ordained ministry.
Bishop Hayes and megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton of Kansas both told personal stories to illustrate why younger elders and deacons are needed.
Hayes spoke of his son, Eric, who left the church, saying that church wasn’t relevant. Then one night he got a call from Eric, who told his father that he had just attended a contemporary worship service at a United Methodist church and had given his life to Christ.
The bishop said he was so grateful someone had been able to bring the Gospel to his son.
Hayes preached, "This generation belongs to you, not to me. So often, the call doesn’t make sense, but the distance is made up by your faith. Tonight God is calling somebody here."
Rev. Hamilton spoke of his daughter, who no longer attends church.
"Who’s going to reach my daughter’s generation for Christ? Who is going to reach your generation for Christ? Who’s going to reach the generation who are 4-year-olds right now? It won’t be people my age," Hamilton said.
"The church has no future without you."
In addition to worship and workshops, young adults gathered in small groups and spent time praying in a sacred-space area. They also could speak with representatives from the 13 United Methodist seminaries.
(Brown is a writer for GBHEM. Joey Butler of UM Communications contributed to this story.)