United Methodist Website Opens Church Doors
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Listen to "There Will Be a Day" by Jeremy Camp. Discuss ideas to improve health care. Find ways to heal the planet at a congregation near you.
There are thousands of ways to be church in the world, and United Methodists have examples of many - as shown in an innovative website that invites a new generation into a life of faith and service.
Backed by a national advertising campaign, The United Methodist Church on April 20 launched tenthousanddoors.org. The site is part of the denomination's Rethink Church campaign, which is using nontraditional methods to reach young adults and others in relevant ways. (Below: Advertising directs people to the new website. A UMNS photo illustration courtesy of United Methodist Communications.)
There are more ways to enter church and begin a spiritual journey than just walking through the front door of a building, say designers of the interactive website.
"Faith itself is a bridge by which we see God and the work of God present in our world," says the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications. "God is not contained in the walls of our sacred buildings. God is in the streets, at the well, in the least expected places."
Helping young adults
The website, dedicated to helping young adults find new ways to connect to the church, offers hundreds of virtual doors that visitors can enter to allow them to make a difference in their lives and the world.
A viewer entering the Watch Door is able to see videos about people in their local communities and across the world who are making a difference. Videos and stories range from people dealing with current events to a reporter visiting the dentist for the first time in five years.
Have a question or an opinion about prayer, spirituality, or current events? Click on the Talk Door and ask or answer away, or engage in a dialogue with others.
A virtual door called Now features the latest headlines, such as the flooding in the Dakotas, and allows users to see topical items of interest on Twitter.
Through the "Friend Connect" door, site visitors can join several social networks and engage in real-time conversation about things that matter to them. The Find Door lets people interested in topics such as environmental issues, health advocacy, day care, disaster response, and the arts type in a ZIP code and locate United Methodist churches near them that offer ministries and opportunities around their areas of interest.
"Ten Thousand Doors captures the variety of ways we carry out ministry, and it illustrates that doorways open inward and outward," Hollon (at left) says. (A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.)
As Jesus in John 10:9 uses the door as the pathway to salvation, the church is using doorways to express service to the world, and as an entry point for those seeking to explore faith.
Areas of focus
The campaign also is a response to the church's four areas of focus - developing principled Christian leaders, creating new churches and renewing existing ones, engaging in ministries with the poor, and stamping out killer diseases of poverty by improving global health.
"Each of the four areas of focus is about creating engaged, active disciples committed to Jesus for the transformation of the world. The four areas are practical doorways," Hollon says.
The method may be contemporary, but it promotes the work of faith in ways rooted in worship, prayer, service and Bible study - tenets of Wesleyan tradition. Faith is the bridge - the understanding, the vision, the hearing, the belief, and the affirmation that God is in the world, healing, changing, forgiving, comforting, and making people whole, Hollon explains.
A relevant message
The church hopes the site holds particular relevance to those ages 18-34, a demographic that seeks meaningful ways to change the world and is looking for purpose and meaning in life with friends who care about them.
"The gospel is relevant," Hollon declares. "The church must always strive to be relevant in presenting the good news of the gospel."
The national advertising campaign directs viewers to the 10thousanddoors.org site, where they can discover that United Methodists are people of action - people who are "Opening hearts. Opening minds. Opening doors."
"It is a promise," Hollon says. "We promise that you will be received with open hearts, open minds and open doors if you engage with the people of The United Methodist Church."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tennessee.