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Reisterstown United Methodist Church

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Paul was a leader and a do-er.  I imagine him as a guy who felt like he had wasted a lot of time not serving God so he needed to “catch up.”  So, he was always on the go, trying to spread the Gospel to people who had not yet heard it or teaching in the churches that were springing up in the Gentile world.

So in the biblical story, just before the part the children helped us hear this morning, Paul had been looking for his next ministry field – first one place and then another.  We’ll go to Asia.  But the Spirit stopped them.  Okay, we’ll go to Bithynia (which is now Turkey).  Again, the Spirit stopped them.

Then Paul had his dream – his vision.  He was to go to Macedonia to share God’s love.  So, he and his companions went and found a small company of women – it was a prayer group of Jewish and God-fearing Gentile women.  They got to know each other, and Paul found a warm reception for his message of Jesus – a message that he did not “preach” or “argue” but rather “chatted about” with them.  As a result, Lydia, the group’s leader, was baptized and invited Paul to stay and help her to host the fledgling Christian community that met in her home.

Paul listened to the spirit of Christ and found in the listening a vision for his ministry.

Friends, the leaders of our congregation have been listening for God and have discerned a vision for a “next step” in ministry.  This vision has been taking shape since last October’s planning retreat, growing in urgency and detail, and we are ready to share where we feel God leading.

Perhaps you had some glimmers of this last week when the youth led the worship service, but I have been wondering if you have any idea of just how our youth ministry has been growing and developing over the last couple of years.  With a strong spiritual leader on our staff, who has developed other leaders and constantly provides appropriate programming that meets the needs of our youth, we are seeing our youth grow in their relationship to Jesus Christ and in their relationships with each other.   Of course there’s youth group every week, and then there are the other aspects of this ministry that are very powerful.  Mission trips and projects each summer and just a few weeks ago, the group went on retreat – something they had not done for quite some time.  And in the last 2 years, new and powerful weeknight groups have begun in addition.

In Yellow Roses, a girls-only group where the conversation is deep and serious and fun and silly, our girls have found an environment of love and support from each other as well as from the women who lead, especially a cadre of young adult women who have not only provided support for the teens but have found a community of love and care for themselves as well.

Then there’s the boys-only group called Dudes ‘n Dinner.  The guys go out to dinner and then do guy stuff – like learn how to do basic car repair and other things that provide a platform for relationship building and conversation. 

This kind of programming takes time to organize and prepare.  You as a congregation have invested in youth ministry, providing the budget for staff time and making sure there is funding available to support the ministry.  And it is making an impact.  We have about 25 active youth – not all here at every event or every Sunday night, but then how many of us are here at every event or Sunday morning? 

Today I want to invite you to see and participate in the vision for our next major ministry step as a congregation.  The leaders of our congregation feel that we need to step out – to risk – in adding staff hours to support our young adults, single or married, with or without children, to make it possible for our young adults to build the kind of relationships that will help them get to know each other and strengthen their walk with Christ.

Have you noticed how many young adults and young families are part of our faith family?  Some visit but don’t stick around.  Others come regularly but don’t have much in the way of a group to identify with.  Our college students come home for breaks but there is nothing to bring them together.  We believe that there must be some significant intentionality to help them “stick” – to find a home much like our youth have a home.  Without the means to develop relationships, there isn’t any glue.

Think about how you found a way to stick.  You met people in your age group and became friends.  Life was different back in the day when church was the thing to do.  People seemed to gravitate toward a group more easily.  Today we need to provide some support to help that happen.

This is a risky step we have decided to take.  In order to do this, we are going to stretch our financial resources.  The money for the position is in the budget, but the budget is not fully funded.  There is a little in reserve, but friends, the truth is that we need for all of us to step up to make this vision a reality. 

As we come to the Lord’s Table today, come with an open heart and an open mind, asking God for direction.  Can you increase your giving by 2% or $50 or more a month to contribute to making this vision a reality?  We shake our heads a lot, wondering what it will take to get our young adults back to church.  Today your leaders are asking that we all step out to work with the Spirit who is calling us to our own Macedonia – not so much a place as a people.  Come over to Macedonia and help us!

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