Reestablishing Youth Ministry
June 12, 2020
In some ways, FUMC Sweeny is like so many other United Methodist churches throughout Texas. Its membership is mostly older and has continued to decline. Over the years the church has drawn fewer and fewer younger families, even though the town still has many families to reach. Yet, the church had such a strong spirit and vision that the 75 regular attendees were able to entice Rev. Dr. Arthur Richardson to come out of retirement after his last appointment to Sioux Falls FUMC, a church with 2,400 members, to serve in Sweeny, which only has a population of 3,800.
They not only convinced Arthur of their vision, but they convinced TMF their vision was strong enough to warrant a grant. FUMC Sweeny is on the road to reestablishing a vibrant children’s and youth ministry, and TMF wanted to support that work. “The resources and networking the foundation provided, when we expressed our vision and our need, was really helpful. TMF has such a rich history of using its assets to assist the church and we are grateful for that,” Arthur shared.
Their focus to reach children and youth has been virtual and three-pronged:
- Including children and youth in worship through social media.
- Inviting children and youth to participate in mission virtually and then on-site.
- Engaging with church members and one another online.
Since so many students and their parents are comfortable with technology and use it for several hours each day, it made perfect sense to start engaging children and teens online.
Furthermore, when it comes to hands-on mission opportunities to engage young people, FUMC Sweeny is known throughout the area as the place to receive assistance. If you have a problem, go to the Methodists – is a common refrain in Sweeny. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, this meant the church was a staging location to distribute supplies for those who were in need. At times when there is no natural disaster, Sweeny is known for Feed My Lambs, a ministry that feeds students twice a week during the summer, and Backpack Buddies, a ministry that provides backpacks filled with food to students in their school district. Each of these ministries offers opportunities for students to volunteer and make a difference in their community. It is engaging, hands-on work that makes an immediate impact.
While the hands-on aspect of these ministries has been paused during the pandemic, the church’s work to engage children and youth online has not been deterred. They are still reaching out and appealing to young people on social media, inviting them to worship, and encouraging them to interact with one another online. As they have paused their hands-on ministries, they are also considering ways to refurbish their Family Life Center to offer space for the youth, since there is no place for young people to gather in town.
Their plans and vision to reestablish children’s and youth ministry will not wait for the pandemic to end and neither will TMF’s support of their work. “We were so blessed by our relationships with Heartspring. They managed our endowments and our loan. Then when they merged with TMF, we continued to receive outstanding support,” Board of Stewards Chair Bruce Luna said. “Now this grant from TMF is another aspect of our ongoing relationship and these significant funds will help us reach our goal.”