Home Young Adults on the RISE - Issue #123

Young Adults on the RISE - Issue #123

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A few years ago a small group of campus ministry leaders at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia began asking tough questions such as: why are only a small number of people participating in our campus ministry, and how is a weekly fellowship dinner followed by worship really transforming the world? What emerged was RISE, a new United Methodist faith community that focuses on engaging young adults at the crossroads of pain and possibility where hope meets real life challenges.

Pastor Amanda Garber says, "We feel a sense of purpose that is deeply rooted in our Christian faith. It is exciting but very challenging, too. We engage with people on the periphery, many of whom have been alienated from the church. This means that we cannot assume prior experience with the Christian faith or even that people have ever heard the basic stories of the Scriptures or about the life of Jesus. We take a different approach when it comes to attracting and serving people in their 20s and 30s. For so long worship has been seen as the focal point for drawing people into fellowship, but today meaning and making a difference matters more to younger generations. We already average 130-150 in worship but nearly 1,000 people are involved overall. The vast majority began their connection through community service opportunities. Recently, for example, three hundred people showed up to participate in a dance party focused on raising support for the poor and on another occasion we joined together to package 20,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now."

All are welcomed to RISE whatever their age, and there is a range of generations participating. The ministries and worship style, however, are geared specifically for young adults. Young people from all over the region are connecting with God and each other, finding meaning in their lives, and taking action to make a difference in the world. People are welcomed and accepted for who they are, and the authenticity of that acceptance has a profound impact. RISE is a community rooted in God’s risk-taking love, life-changing grace, passionate outreach, and open-armed acceptance.

Some Questions for Discussion

  • What are some of the hard questions that your congregation needs to discuss?
  • What are the non-traditional doors through which people can enter into your faith community?

Kevin Witt is the former Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries at Discipleship Ministries. You can read more about RISE at www.riseharrisonburg.com.

In 2007 church leaders throughout The United Methodist Church in the U.S. were invited to identify churches that demonstrated the vision of discipleship described in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Over 200 churches were surveyed or visited. Issue #123. © 2012 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this page for use in United Methodist congregations.