Intentionally reaching out to young adults: three years and growing

Group 236

by the Rev. Amy Thompson Sevimli

Young adult ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virginia is a focus of the Rev. Brian Erickson. He’s been hard at work, and this October 2013 newsletter article tells what’s going on at Faith far better than I ever could.

Intentionally reaching out to young adults: three years and growing

This fall marks third anniversary of the advent of our Young Adult Ministry at Faith Lutheran. Of the 178 members who have joined the congregation during that period of time, 102 (57%) have been young adults (ages 18-35).

Not only do we see far more young adults in worship and Bible study than we used to, these young adults have become extremely active and involved in the life and mission of Faith Lutheran. A few examples:

    • Nearly half of our Church Council members are young adults, including three of our five officers. All three of our lay Voting Members to this year’s Synod Assembly were young adults.
    • Young adults, along with Pastor Yvette Shock, run both our confirmation and youth programs. Many of our Confirmation Mentors are also young adults.
    • Several young adults sing in the choir.
    • Several are involved in ushering and running the sound system.
    • Young adults are the primary participants in our annual Border Mission Trip to El Paso and Juarez.
    • Many young adults are involved in social ministry, from feeding the homeless to tending the community garden to heading up our involvement with both the Arlington Free Clinic and VOICE, a community-organizing group in northern Virginia working on issues such as affordable housing, etc.

So, how did this intentional ministry come to be? In order to answer that question, we turn to Pastor Brian Erickson.

130919coffeeshop“On the day Faith Lutheran voted to call me as their Senior Pastor, Interim Pastor Norm Theiss had only one suggestion for me: ‘You need to start a young adult ministry. We have young adults visiting every Sunday.’

“And so I turned to Pastor Amy Thompson Sevimli on our synod staff for guidance and coaching. I assumed we would need to hire a young adult to do the young adult ministry. However, she asked me if I liked young adults. I told her I surely do. After all, both my kids are young adults. She then assured me I could lead the ministry.

“I intentionally set out to meet as many guests as I could on Sunday mornings, most of whom turned out to be young adults. In announcements we began to ask our guests to give us their emails. I then started emailing each of these visitors, telling them I would like to get to know them better and what they are looking for in a church, suggesting we could begin that conversation by email, phone call, or over coffee. I soon found out no one wanted to talk on the phone, many would begin an email conversation, and a surprisingly large number wanted to meet for coffee.

“I then began to build email groups from these conversations, under headings such as ‘Young Adult,’ ‘Men’s Ministry,’ ‘Social Ministry,’ ‘Bible Study,’ etc. as the primary way to notify folks of upcoming events. My Young Adult email group now has 240 listings.

“We also began YAG (Young Adult Gathering), a wine and cheese social gathering that meets nearly every month, most of the time at the parsonage. This became the main way of helping young adults connect with each other, and deepen their spirituality and support of one another. After socializing for about an hour and a half (including ping pong and billiards in our basement), we gather in a circle to get to know one another, share prayer concerns, and discuss what I call ‘semi-spiritual’ questions. Examples would be:

    • Tell us about one or two people who have helped deepen your faith?
    • Who are the people who have loved you into being?
    • What are the greatest gifts you have ever received?
    • What excites you about the coming year? What scares you?
    • If you were to think back about the hopes you had for your life five years ago, are you where you want to be or not?

“We usually have from 25-30 young adults come to these gatherings, about half married, half single, and usually two or three babies. I have been amazed to see how quickly a real sense of spiritual community has developed. As an example, this summer one of our couples had a baby nine weeks premature. Other young adults spent countless hours with this couple in the hospital, went into their apartment to clean and wash their clothes, and organized bringing over meals for several weeks.

“I also formed a Planning Team which meets quarterly to plan the YAG and all the other events we also do, from sporting events to coffee discussion of trending issues to hikes to servanthood events. For example, this fall, in addition to our YAGs, we are going apple picking and serving a meal for the homeless in D.C.

“I must say, this has been one of the most exciting and joyous ministries in which I have ever been involved, and I think it is helping keep me a bit younger.”