What Young People Want from the Church – Mira Hewlett

It's all about relationships

After working several years in campus ministry with colleagues my age, I was appointed associate pastor to a newly merging congregation in the same town. During the first two years, I was always in a meeting or working on a project. In Year 3, I knew I had to make a change. As burnout and loneliness loomed, I realized I had to find friends my age within the church.

Desperate, I sent an email to other young adult women asking if they would be interested in starting a small group. Of the 15 people emailed, 13 committed instantly.

In our first gathering, a few things became clear. They liked a women's-only group. They wanted to be real and authentic. They wanted to pray for each other, and they wanted to meet at least twice a month.

Curriculum wasn't critical, so we started with the United Methodist Women mission book Chasing Chaos by young adult Jessica Alexander. The book allowed us to share our life stories and our struggles and challenges of making decisions and living as women of faith. It became a springboard for many tangents. Our welcome sharing took 40 minutes, our book time 30 minutes and our prayer time 20 minutes.

One of the women said, "It has helped me talk about the Bible and my faith more openly with my husband. This has really made him more eager to come to church, and it has strengthened our marriage. I also ... talk to God a lot more about things. The fellowship makes me more eager to learn about the Bible with socializing!"

What do young adults crave from the church? We want a place where people care and know our joys and concerns and where relationships trump accomplishing a book study. We want a place to question Scripture and God openly without having to find, know or decide on an answer. We want a place to make friends with others who have similar values. We want a place where people hold us accountable for showing up, bringing snacks or participating in conversation. We want a place where we clearly see, feel and know God's love.

Year 4 of my ministry looks a whole lot better with a group of women my age in my church who listen, care and gather regularly.

The Rev. Mira Hewlett, 35, is associate pastor of Carlisle (Pennsylvania) United Methodist Church. She is a 2006 graduate of Princeton T'heological Seminary.