Digital parish, real community: Meeting the needs of young adults

More from Pastoring in the Digital Parish

We're talking with Lexi Hernandez, the founder of Growth Co, a young adult ministry that is changing the way people think about church. We go behind the scenes to learn about the inspiration behind the creation of subscription boxes for young adults, the idea of Growth Co, and the challenges of meeting the needs of the community. Lexi shares her personal experiences with church growing up and the journey that led to the creation of Growth Co. Join us as we explore the dynamics of young adult communities and the challenges that come with it.

The Episode

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Show Notes 

In this episode:

(00:00) - Introduction
(05:06) - How Growth Co Was Born
(10:30) - The Challenges of Meeting the Needs of Young Adults
(15:39) - Creating a Safe Space for Spiritual Exploration
(17:57) - Finding the Right Balance Between Fun and Serious Discussion
(26:02) - Engaging Young Adults in Volunteering and Service Opportunities
(34:29) A young person's vision of church
(36:11) - National Meetings and Expanding the Community
(38:23) - Conclusion and Key Takeaways

This session is made available by:

Safer Sanctuaries: Nurturing Trust within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedures.
To learn more go to or call 800-972-0433

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Related sessions of Pastoring in the Digital Parish


Ryan Dunn [00:00:01]:

This is Pastoring in the Digital Parish, your resource and point of connection for building digital ministry strategy and bringing your congregation into the digital age. Hi. My name is Ryan Dunn. I'm the proctor for this podcast, which seeks to be the digital ministry class. You didn't get in seminary. On this episode of Pastoring in the Digital Parish, the focus is on creating a sense of community for young adults in untraditional way. Lexi Hernandez joins us to share her journey in starting a small group for young adults in her church, which led to the creation of Growth Co, a young adult ministry. They use unique methods, such as subscription boxes in Instagram to communicate and engage with their members. Together, we explore the difficulties in meeting everyone's needs and the idea of having in person and online gatherings for spiritual development and for fun. Finally, the episode delves into Growth Co's goal of having this type of community in every state for young adults who feel there's more to life but aren't quite comfortable attending traditional Sunday morning church. Hey, I could use a favor from you. Ratings and reviews help the visibility of this podcast, meaning that they make it just more visible to both listeners and to prospective guests. So if you're appreciative of what we do on Pastoring in the Digital Parish and you want to see more great content, well, tell us by leaving a rating and review on your podcast listening platform. This particular meaningful episode of Pastoring in the Digital Parish is brought to us by Safer Sanctuaries. Safer Sanctuaries Nurturing Trust Within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedures. To learn more, go to or give them a call at 809 720433. Hey, let me tell you about our adjunct professor for this session. Lexi Hernandez is a woman of faith who believes that ministry happens in unexpected ways, and she communicates an expectation herself that there is a purpose and design to all that she does, even if it may not be immediately obvious. As the founder of Growth, she's helped to create a rhythm to the organization's scheduling and programming, ensuring that each gathering offers a unique level of learning and growth. Whether leading a Thursday night gathering or participating in a 201 level Zoom session, lexi is committed to sharing your faith and helping others discover their own personal connections to spirituality. So let's get talking about ministry with the young people on Pastoring in the Digital Parish. Lexi Hernandez is the leader and founder. Is that right? Lexi founder of Groveco Cool, which is a faith community for young adults in Mooresville, North Carolina. Really? Do you call it the Charlotte area?

Lexi Hernandez [00:03:08]:

Yeah, Mooresville and surrounding areas.

Ryan Dunn [00:03:11]:

Okay. All right. And Growth is not specifically or explicitly a digital ministry, but many of us dig into digital ministry with the hopes of reaching some young people and that's really what Growth Co is all about. So I feel like we can learn a lot in hearing Growth Co's story, which Lexi is here to share with us. So let's start with this. Lexi, I know that Growth has a meeting tonight, as a matter of fact, what does that meeting look like?

Lexi Hernandez [00:03:38]:

So we have partnered with one of the local bars in downtown Morrisville called On Tap. They have a private room in the back that they allow groups or people to just rent out. It's free. So I don't know if you really call it renting out, just reserving it. And every other Thursday, Growth Co gets that room from 630 to 830. And tonight is our first time doing that. So I'm sure we'll grab a couple of drinks to start. We'll go back in that back room, we'll hang out, we'll do some introduction, like fun games that are nice and corny for everyone to get relaxed and loosened up. Normally at our online in our in person gatherings, we'll do like, music trivia or some sort of millennial gen z trivia that we should all know and can have fun with. And then we'll have conversation around whatever spiritual topic we're talking about, which right now it's going to be cancel culture. So we have 2 hours and we'll plan to have some fun, do some introducing, and doing some conversation around cancel culture while we enjoy a beverage or not enjoy a beverage just because we meet at the bar. I hope we don't put pressure on people to feel like they have to get a drink. Yeah, it's always an option.

Ryan Dunn [00:04:53]:

Well, let's go back to the beginning of this. Why did you feel like something like Growth Co was necessary? Where did it come from?

Lexi Hernandez [00:04:59]:

So it's kind of a long story, but I'll try to shorten it as.

Ryan Dunn [00:05:03]:

Best as I can. It's cool. We got the time.

Lexi Hernandez [00:05:06]:

I did not grow up in the church. I had zero church experience other than, like, the Saturday nights when you sleep over at a friend's house and their parents are like, oh, you've got to go to church with us on Sunday if you sleep over. That was pretty much the extent of my exposure to church, and I didn't really like the experiences that I had during those because it was very much like, if you have tattoos, you're going to hell. It was all of the damning, everyone to hell type of church that I experienced growing up. And I had a single mom who was a teen mom, so she was always way younger than my friend's parents. She had tattoos, she went out with her friends. And I just constantly was like, I would come home from experiencing that and be like, mom, you're going to hell. I don't know what to tell you. And it was so scary for me as a little girl because that was just, like, horrifying to think that my poor mom was going to go to hell for all these things that she was doing. So I stayed away from the church for the majority of my life. And then in college, I lived in a house with four other girls. So there was five of us total. And it seemed like one of us was always going through, like, a heartbreak or we had been talking to a player and we knew we shouldn't have and those kinds of things. So it was like when we felt like we were hitting rock bottom, we would say, hey, let's put on a sermon on YouTube. We didn't have any particular ones that we would follow. It would just be whatever we felt.

Ryan Dunn [00:06:31]:

Called us that night.

Lexi Hernandez [00:06:33]:

But then the next night, we would be right back at the bar dancing and drinking and doing all this stuff. So it was like we started to use sermons as things to just make us feel better and like, a check in really quick until we could continue just everything else that we were doing that we knew wasn't good for us. And so graduating sorry.

Ryan Dunn [00:06:53]:

Do you remember who some of the YouTubers were that you were tuning into?

Lexi Hernandez [00:06:58]:

Yeah, Michael Todd from Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was pretty much the one that we would regularly go to or the one that I would choose. There were others, I think Steven Ferdick or Fern, all of the big, like, mega church people. Unfortunately, we never got into Andy Stanley back then. Now, I wish we would have, but all of the mega church pastors who were just famous all over the place were the ones that would pop up first, and that's what we would call so during college, I graduated with an advertising and English degree. I love to read, I love to write, and I had no plans of working for the church. And my first job outside of college was marketing director for a nonprofit that fought sex trafficking in North Carolina. I'm very young for my grade, so I was 21 when I graduated college. And that was very intense for me to go into the field of human trafficking, because it wasn't just the cutesy, like, we're going to teach you Human Trafficking 101, and I know nothing about it. It was like, we were going to the hotels, we were doing undercover things. We were doing all types of stuff. So that was a really eye opening part of my life that was just crazy for me in a great way. I don't regret that at all. But unfortunately, when COVID hit, I lost my job at the nonprofit because the nonprofit lost their funding through the company just because of COVID And so West United Methodist Church in Mooresville, North Carolina, was looking for a ten hour a week intern, and I was like, hey, I don't have a job. I know social media. I could totally do your ten hour intern for social media work. They were like, okay, great. They asked me about my background with the church, and I was very honest with them. And I even said in my interview, like, I'm working for you because I need a job. This is not me trying to be cute or volunteer. This, to me is strictly just a job.

Ryan Dunn [00:09:10]:

It's business. Yeah. Okay. This is not personal. It's just business.

Lexi Hernandez [00:09:15]:


Ryan Dunn [00:09:16]:


Lexi Hernandez [00:09:16]:

This is not out of the kindness of my heart. I need some money. So that's how that went. And I fell in love with that church. It was a different experience for me. They wore T shirts and jeans on Sundays. Some of them would talk about going to grab a beer after the service, or they were going to Boone that weekend. They just seemed like real people finally. And that was something I hadn't experienced in the church before. And within like, six months, I was full time staff somehow. I still don't even really know how all of that worked out, but it did, and I'm thankful that it did. And I was full time for the children's ministry at the time because of COVID they were doing this really cool thing where they would film YouTube videos in house that had, like, science experiments, crafts, cooking segments, and fun things for kids. They would box it all up and they would send it to the kids for free. So, because the kids couldn't come to church, their version of church was getting their box, doing the activities, and learning about Jesus and character development through YouTube.

Ryan Dunn [00:10:22]:


Lexi Hernandez [00:10:23]:

Yeah. The episodes that we would make. And so that was really cool. But then I started thinking, like, all right, this is really fun, and it seems innovative. Like, why are there not people my age that are a part of this? At the time, I was 24. I'm about to turn 27. So it's been a few years, but still, there was no one really my age unless they were college kids of families who have gone to west. So they would only come to west when they were home for the weekend or whatever. So I asked Andrea Smith, our senior pastor, if I could start a small group for people in their didn't really know what that was going to look like. I knew it probably wasn't going to be like a Bible study, just because that wasn't something that I was into at the time or anything. I just wanted people to feel like they had community, especially while COVID was still going strong. So we started it wasn't called Growth Co. It was just a little twenty s and thirty s group. And then I just was like, why can't we do these cool subscription boxes, too? Like, as a 20 something year old, I think a subscription box with fun, nostalgic things would be amazing. Through the subscription box is kind of how Growth Co was born. Then we started talking with our conference leaders and they were like, oh, this could be a church plant to figure out how to do church differently with young adults. In the box I would write like a devotion about whatever it was that the topic was for that month or that box. And then we would have reflection questions and Bible verses and all this material to go with it, along with the tangible items. And the tangible items were just fun little things that would hopefully remind you of Growth Co and the topic that we talked about. So that's how Growth Co started. We are very far off from that now. We've evolved from that, but that's how.

Ryan Dunn [00:12:18]:

We got started, at least in those early days. How were you making the connections with your kind of, quote unquote, target audience?

Lexi Hernandez [00:12:26]:

So I don't know if it's obvious yet. If you get to know me a little more, it will be I will talk to a brick wall. I am very extroverted now. I do get embarrassed to walk up to people and be like, so what do you think about God? Embarrassed is probably the wrong word. I'm not embarrassed to do that, but I'm not quick to do something like that. But how I was making these connections were all of my college graduates, like my classmates. We kind of scattered. We all went to Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina, and then we ended up in all sorts of states. So I would post on my personal Facebook and say, are you in your twenty s and thirty s? Are you feeling like you're missing community due to the circumstances of the pandemic? I invite you to join online. We have this casual group going where we're just connecting as young adults, and from there it just kind of grew and grew and grew. So at first it was just me posting on my personal page to all of my friends and peers and stuff. And now making direct asks looks like, for example, on tap tonight when we go there, the bartender who works there is in his late twenty s, I believe. So it would just be like trying to put growth coat in the conversation, like, oh, so what do you typically do on a Thursday night? Well, if you're ever free sometime, you should come join us here and we do this and that. So I guess now it's just trying to work it into a conversation without it being like a bait and switch.

Ryan Dunn [00:14:08]:

Like that's not my agenda. When we're talking the old Jesus juke.

Lexi Hernandez [00:14:13]:

Like, oh yeah, I try really hard.

Ryan Dunn [00:14:17]:

Not to do so you're drinking beer. You know who else like beer? Jesus.

Lexi Hernandez [00:14:20]:


Ryan Dunn [00:14:22]:

Doesn't work.

Lexi Hernandez [00:14:24]:

Yeah, exactly.

Ryan Dunn [00:14:26]:

And are there ways that you've been able to foster a sense of community online?

Lexi Hernandez [00:14:33]:

Yeah, we used to use text in church as our main form of communication, and at first that was really cool because it was just like, it was easy to send the text, people were able to get all the details they needed. But just recently, like, in 2023, the leadership team and I kind of had the revelation of, like, well, we're not really building relationships by using text in church. Sometimes people might text us back, but then they're only talking to whoever is sending the text at the time. So we've actually moved to using group messages on social media as our main form of communication. So we have a WhatsApp group chat, which is nice, but we are like, going strong on our Instagram DM group message, which even two years ago, if you would have told me that's what I was doing, I would be like, please, that is so lame. Like, don't tell me that that's what I'm doing.

Ryan Dunn [00:15:34]:

Did it seem like that was just an older platform or no, it just.

Lexi Hernandez [00:15:39]:

Seemed like I just assumed, like, you can't really build relationships by DMing people on Instagram. But there are like 25 of us in this Instagram group message, and I'll send a meme on a Wednesday morning and then everyone will send a meme or everyone's laughing about their memes and just having conversations. So that's been interesting. You can really build relationships online with people that you've never met before. Like, you could have the same sense of humor. You guys could be experiencing the same things, and there's just something special about like, yeah, it's just a social media platform, so people might have our conversation muted. Like, they may just read through it and never intend to respond, but they're getting some sort of relationship and feedback from whatever's being posted in there. And that's also nice because I'm not always the one who starts the conversation with text and church, and I'm not putting text and church down. It did its thing and it worked really well for us, but people weren't they weren't connecting with text and church for us in the sense of like, they wouldn't reach out to us first through text and church. We would blast our number out on our social media and they weren't really quick to text us and be like, oh, can I have the link to that zoom? I really want to join it. It was always we were the ones doing the initiating of the conversation, which, again, that worked for some people. But this form of communication seems to be like, if someone finds a funny meme and the group message has been dead, they're comfortable enough to still send the meme whether someone's talking to them or not. So I don't know. That's been a huge revelation for us and it's working really well.

Ryan Dunn [00:17:27]:

Did it take some encouragement to get people to just kind of spontaneously participate in the DMs there? Because I've heard from a lot of folks and well, this has happened in my experience as well. As the coordinator of an online community, you throw the content out there, and people might like it, but it's like all the conversation is driven by the leader. So how did you invite people to kind of organically start their own conversations?

Lexi Hernandez [00:17:57]:

I think I'm a natural question asker. Anyway, so a lot of conversation that I have or that I initiate is started with a question. So a lot of times I would just ask a question, hoping that people would respond, and then it turned into other people asking questions. Just out of curiosity. I actually want to pull one up because this was hilarious to me. All of the things that we got back, someone named Alec in Growth Co randomly asked this question, and it was, like, the most awesome question. Okay, so he texted into the group chat and said, you've got 40 minutes to spend $2,400 in one store. Where are you going? And it just like, everyone flooded with a response, and that's not a question that I would probably ask, because I don't know. I feel like all of my questions do have a little bit of an agenda. Like, I want to see, where do you want to hang out next month?

Ryan Dunn [00:19:01]:

Sure. Okay.

Lexi Hernandez [00:19:02]:

This week. Do you have any concerns? Do you have any celebrations? It's never just like, so what are you eating for dinner? So I love that. And people the first response back to, Where are you going if you have 40 minutes to spend $2,400? They said the gas station, and then TJ. Maxx Lowe's so my husband can do a project Hobby Lobby. And then someone's like, don't get me started on Hobby Lobby. I need the AA equivalent for Hobby Lobby.

Ryan Dunn [00:19:32]:

So then it's like, okay, yeah. See how that flowers out?

Lexi Hernandez [00:19:38]:

Yeah. And the memes memes are a great way for people to just throw that out there, because they don't have to actually say anything. If they think a meme is funny, they put it in the group chat, and we respond to it. So I don't know. It's still so new that I'm not sure if it's going to work for forever, but for now, we're having a good time, and people seem pretty comfortable doing it.

Ryan Dunn [00:20:01]:

And you find that most of the people who participate in Growth Co also participate in that online gathering point.

Lexi Hernandez [00:20:12]:

That's tough. We have some who will be there tonight in downtown and who will be on our Zoom next Monday. But what we're finding is majority of the people on our Zooms are the people who don't live here locally. So we're still trying to figure out how to blend the two. And I actually, as a leader, struggled for a little bit because I was like, it's not fair to our in person people or It's not fair to our online people, because our in person people have the option to be there in person and get to know all of us face to face. And they get the opportunity to connect with us online via Zoom. Our online only people only have that opportunity. So I spent many days, like, crying about that because I'm a huge crier. So I was like, oh my gosh, this isn't as fair. So part of our multiplication plan moving forward would be to have some in person opportunities in all of the hubs and locations that we know we have online people in. So I don't know. We're working on that as well, but we have a few that cross over and do both. But mainly our in person people want to be in person and our online people want to be online.

Ryan Dunn [00:21:33]:

Hey, church leader. Just a little interjection. If you're working with young people, you want to make sure to take care to put policies and practices in place that protect the vulnerable amidst your community. And the changing landscape of how we relate with one another means we need to keep up to date on evolving policies and practices for safety for all. Safer Sanctuaries Nurturing Trust Within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of Safe Sanctuaries ministry by building on the trusted policies and procedures that have guided church over the past 25 years. This resource contains theological grounding for the work of abuse prevention, psychological insights about abuse and abuse prevention, and basic guidelines for risk reduction, age level specific guidance, and step by step instructions on how to develop, revise, update, and implement an abuse prevention plan in your church or organization. For Christians, resisting evil and doing justice are ways that we live and serve Jesus Christ. Safer Sanctuaries provides help to do just that by framing this work as a life giving, community enhancing and proactive endeavor. It enables communities to be empowered and flourish as they develop and implement policies and procedures that make everyone safer. To learn more, go to or call them at 800 Online 720433. That's 809 720433. And now back to our conversation with Lexi. Tell us a little bit about the community rhythm of growth. So you have a Zoom meeting. How often is that? And then you have your in person meetings. How often are those happening?

Lexi Hernandez [00:23:26]:

So we try again. Keyword try. We try really hard to make it every other week. So tonight is going to be in person. Monday night is going to be online. The next Thursday is going to be in person. And then we also have a volunteer day. Actually, I need to show these to you because this is part of how we do our finances. We have an anchor church, but we don't expect our members to tithe. We're realistic on the fact that our members are probably never going to be what sustains us financially. I mean, we're a bunch of broke young adults. We do teach the importance of giving and tithing and things. But we also agree that if you're willing to give us your time and you can volunteer here. We're not going to push you and press you to give a bunch of money.

Ryan Dunn [00:24:22]:

Sure. Okay.

Lexi Hernandez [00:24:23]:

We try to see what they feel called to give, and if it's time and resources over finances, great. We're not going to say anything to you about that. But with that being said, we have these growth code candles that are in, like, aluminum beer cans. And they have funny sayings. This one says, time off denied, infused with vacation bound. Some say adulting, infused with insufficient funds. We have one about parenting and always being tired and stuff. So our volunteer nights and our serving nights, if we're not doing something within the community, we all meet at the office and we'll pour these candles so that we can then sell them for $15 to people who want to buy them.

Ryan Dunn [00:25:11]:

That's awesome. Okay. Where do you sell them?

Lexi Hernandez [00:25:15]:


Ryan Dunn [00:25:16]:


Lexi Hernandez [00:25:16]:

Okay. We're working on the shopify right now. It's part of Soul Creations, which is the nonprofit that our anchor church started to partner with their Uganda campus. And I feel like I need to give you like, a family tree of all branches and things that we have going on. But the shopify is going to be launched, I think, this summer. So as soon as it is, I would love to share the link with you so people can check out the candles.

Ryan Dunn [00:25:45]:

Totally. All right. And that's kind of a cool way of gathering then, too. So there's a sense of purpose in your gathering that maybe even feel a little more comfortable to people than just saying, like, hey, we're going to have a hangout and talk.

Lexi Hernandez [00:26:02]:

Yeah. And something that's been really interesting that we're wrestling with as an organization right now is we can't quite figure out how the young adults that we're connecting with want to serve. So originally, Growth co's mission was just to provide a safe, boundary breaking community for people to safely explore their spirituality, whatever that looks like. We have an atheist on the leadership team. We have a ton of people who believe in God, but they're not sure what that looks like. We're very inclusive of whatever theological beliefs you do or don't have with that. It's like we have to figure out these people differently. It's not going to be one size fits all. And when it comes to volunteering, it was my assumption in the leadership team's assumption that it would be compelling enough to say, hey, this is our mission and we want to expand it to all 20 and 30 year olds. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to volunteer at places to help other young adults, and we're going to do this and we're going to do that. And for the majority of people that wasn't compelling enough, that wasn't something that they were connecting to, we have some people who want to do the and this is going to sound insensitive, but I promise I don't mean it this way. They want to do the global poverty and people who don't get enough meals or they want to do the underprivileged schools here locally. So there's just so many different levels where people may say, it's not compelling enough for me to just go out within my own community and do something. I want to reach people in a different country or I want to reach people locally and I don't care about the people in another country. So we're still trying to figure out what it is exactly that everyone wants to do when it comes to serving. Because we may offer one thing and if it doesn't fit what they're looking for, then we're going to end up with no volunteers and no people who want to serve. So that is something with young adults that I've been trying to inform everyone on. I think we all have different levels of what interests us and what compels us. So it's not always going to be the typical like, we're going to go make our community better. Some young adults don't give a crap about doing that. Yeah, I don't know.

Ryan Dunn [00:28:36]:

Yeah, well, and that touches on a great point because I think one of the questions, not just that we ask in Church World is not just how do we reach and meet young people, but the next level question is like, what are they actually looking for? And so when people are connecting with Growth Co, are they expressing any kind of felt need? Like, oh, I'm a part of Growth Co because for me it blanked.

Lexi Hernandez [00:29:04]:

Yeah. Yes. And that can be very frustrating for me personally, if I'm going to be honest, because it almost feels impossible to meet everyone's needs. Of course I struggled as a leader and as a person, just individually. I want it to be attractive to everyone. I want everyone to feel like they belong at Growth and that they can join and that they're going to get what they want out of it. But sometimes that meant that our core people who were always showing up felt like they weren't getting their needs met because we were over generalizing what it was that we were offering. Yeah, so when someone joins, we specifically ask them, are you looking for community? Are you looking for spiritual development and or exploration? Are you looking to network? We give them options, but what are you looking for out of Growth Co? And then our goal with that is to try to have the one big main Growth Co group that is just fun community of young adults getting together and experiencing life together. And then we have little breakout small groups, I guess you would call them, where some might want to participate in a Bible study type of deal or some may want to connect with each other through information and through their careers so they can expand their network. And there are sometimes too where I'll. Say, hey, what are you looking for? And they say, I don't know. And then we're like, all right, well, we'll come back to that. So come hang out with us for a little bit, and then we'll see if there's something that sparks your interest or what it is that you're looking for. I feel like most of the time, my answer to these questions are, like, here's what we do. It may work, it may not, and I don't really know if I know the answer. Yeah, young adults are weird. We're weird.

Ryan Dunn [00:30:59]:

Yeah. Well, I think it's totally fair to say, like, hey, we don't have it all pre planned and figured out. I think that probably a lot of us could be reminded, like, this is just how ministry happens. There is purpose and design to what you're doing, even if sometimes, like, what your purpose is isn't what the people assume it is. Do you feel like there's a rhythm to the scheduling and programming of growth co? Do you have a specific design of, like, okay, our Thursday night gathering might be the 101 level, but the Zoom Gathering is like the 201 level.

Lexi Hernandez [00:31:48]:

Yeah, we've been playing around with the idea that we have two in person gatherings a month, two online gatherings a month, and one serving or volunteering gathering, so five every month. It would be great if one of our in person gatherings could be just straight up fun. We don't talk about anything that's been planned. Like, it's just an organic time to hang out. And then we have that 201 level for the other gathering where we come. I have reflection questions laid out. We know what it is we're going to talk about, and we really dive deep into whatever that discussion is going to be. Same with online. I think up until this point, I've tried to make each gathering half and half, and I'm not sure if that scares some people away or if that's not what they're looking for. Because if I know that you've answered that you're coming here for community, not for spiritual formation or development, you might be really uncomfortable during that second half of the gathering, and I don't ever want it to feel like that for that person. So maybe having an entire gathering where we are just here to have fun and connect with one another, but just to let you know if at any point you do feel like you would be more interested in doing that spiritual formation, we also have a gathering that is only going to be about that. So that's part of that generalization that I feel like has been not harmful, but probably not most effective is for the first hour of our two hour gathering, we're just having fun, we're cutting up, and then it's like a classroom. At some point, I'm like, all right, everybody, now let's take a seat and let's actually have the discussion. Yeah, I think we're trying to figure out what the best rhythm for what everyone's looking for would be.

Ryan Dunn [00:33:55]:

Okay, well, this has been really helpful. I appreciate your time. And I've got one last question for you, and it kind of revolves around the idea of fear. Like, sometimes in church world, we don't put ourselves out there because we are afraid of being called on our stuff or we're afraid of the question that we can't answer. What are some of the questions that you're encountering as you interact with people who either don't have much of a faith background or still kind of new to it? Yeah. And how do you navigate that?

Lexi Hernandez [00:34:29]:

That's a really good question. I think instead of asking the young adults what it is they're looking for out of church, maybe ask the question, if you could envision or if you could vision an entire new structure of church, what would that look like? Because I still feel like even in the cool and hip things we're doing with growth co, people are smart enough to know that we're still a church. And sometimes that just turns people off. Young adults, barna Research put out some statistics about young adults, and their opening line was, young adults are not looking for you to make your church cool. And I just thought, wow, that was as simple as that line is they're not looking for a cool church that's going to just let them do whatever they're just done with the idea of whatever church looks like for right now.

Ryan Dunn [00:35:32]:


Lexi Hernandez [00:35:34]:

Imagining an entire new church or what that looks like. And I think it's more conversation based. It's more we may have the foundation of Christianity for us, but we're willing to talk about what Buddha is all about or something else. So probably those questions.

Ryan Dunn [00:35:53]:

Yeah. Okay, cool. All right, well okay, this will be the last question then. What is something that, as you do think about this new model of church? What's something that you're dreaming for? Growth Co. Oh, wow.

Lexi Hernandez [00:36:11]:

I think Big Sky dream would be that in Nashville there's a growth co in person in New York. There's a growth co in person in Charlotte, in Florida, in Texas, in every other state. There's an in person opportunity for you to experience your spiritual exploration, whatever that does or doesn't look like for you in a place that you know you belong. And then nationally, we all just meet online, like just one giant group of people in their who just like, they know that there's something more to life, but they can't really pinpoint exactly what it is. They don't feel comfortable doing the Sunday church morning thing. Yeah. They're just very open to the ideas and they learn and grow from hearing other people's perspectives. It's not led by just one person. It's all conversation style because that's something, as a leader, that I make very clear. I am so new to ministry and the church world anyways, that just because I'm a local licensed pastor does not mean that I know more than you. I feel like some people will challenge that. I probably should know more than the average person. But as far as the conversation goes, you're not going to come to Growth Co, and me tell you that this is the only way that you can do XYZ. If you feel like you have a way, I want to hear about it. I want to grow just as much as I hope you guys want to grow from Growth Co. So it's a very horizontal leadership. I don't think there's any type of you're going to come to growth, and this is our theology about this, and if you don't agree with it, pack your bags. I'm sure there's somewhere else that you can go. It is very much like you believe what you believe and we may disagree on it, but we're going to be able to have a civil conversation about it and see if we can grow from hearing from one another. So that would be my dream, to be able to have that on a national or maybe even global scale.

Ryan Dunn [00:38:16]:


Lexi Hernandez [00:38:17]:


Ryan Dunn [00:38:18]:

Well, thanks for sharing that with us, Lexi. And thanks for sharing your time today.

Lexi Hernandez [00:38:21]:

Thank you so much. It was so fun.

Ryan Dunn [00:38:23]:

Good. That's wrapping up a great conversation on this session of Pastoring in the Digital Parish. Do you want to hear more about ministries with young people? Well, season three's, Youth Ministry in the Digital Parish is a great follow up. Or if you're excited about fresh online ministries, then check out season five's, New Wineskins for Faith and Community. It's a great session as well. Again, my name is Ryan Dunn and I'd like to thank, the online destination for leaders throughout the United Methodist Church. They make this podcast possible and of course, they host our website, which [email protected] where you can find more online resources for ministry. I also want to thank our sponsors, Safer Sanctuaries, for their support. Again, safer Sanctuaries Nurturing Trust Within Faith Communities is a new and comprehensive resource that continues the tradition of safe sanctuary's ministry by building on its trusted policies and procedures. This resource contains theological grounding for the work of abuse prevention, basic guidelines for risk reduction, age level specific guidance, and step by step instructions on how to develop, revise, update, and implement an abuse prevention plan. If you want to connect, check out our Pastoring in the Digital Parish group on Facebook. You can also send me questions and ideas for future sessions at [email protected] Another session? Hey, it comes out next week. We're in the middle of season six, so I'll talk to you then. In the meantime, peace.


On this episode

Lexi Hernandez of Growth Co

Lexi Hernandez is a woman of faith who believes that ministry happens in unexpected ways. She communicates an expectation that there is a purpose and design to all that she does, even if it may not be immediately obvious. As the founder of Growth Co, she has helped to create a rhythm to the organization’s scheduling and programming, ensuring that each gathering offers a unique level of learning and growth..

Ryan Dunn, co-host and producer of the Compass Podcast

Our proctor/host is the Rev. Ryan Dunn, a Minister of Online Engagement for United Methodist Communications. Ryan manages the digital brand presence of Rethink Church, co-hosts and produces the Compass Podcast, manages his personal brand, and obsesses with finding ways to offer new expression of grace.


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