Young Adults Yearn for Faith and Connection Amid Crises

June 04, 2020

“What was surprising was our Bible studies,” said Robbie Frederiksen of Central United Methodist Church, Stockton. Robbie Frederiksen works with students on the Delta Wesley and University of the Pacific campuses as the youth and young adult director for Central UMC and Los Gatos UMC. Before the pandemic there were between one and four people attending the study. But, after the pandemic, the group averaged between 12 to 15. “What wasn’t well attended before is the highlight of the week!”
 
Frederiksen was one of four panelists featured in the California-Nevada Annual Conference Wednesday Webinar, June 3, 2020 at 4 p.m. focusing on “Engaging Children, Youth and Young Adults in Your Church.” Clergy and lay people from around the conference attended the zoom event followed by a Question & Answer time where participants post questions into a chat box. Rev. Dr. Fel Cao moderated the discussion.
 
“Our youth are interested in Bible studies,” added panelist Nia Mateialona of Hillsdale UMC in San Mateo. Mateialona is making plans to set up and continue the studies because of the recent appeal. “We will keep online sessions after the pandemic.”
 
Panelist Sara Tillema, campus minister at the University of California in Davis and a coach along with Frederiksen in the Growing Young Cohort, discussed the prevalent feeling of Zoom fatigue for students who study online and take classes online spending their entire day, and sometimes nights, behind a computer screen.
 
“At Cal Aggie (CA) House, we are emphasizing doing physical things—engaging more senses than our eyes and a screen,” said Tillema who recently encouraged students to participate in an effort called “Holy Week in A Box.” The project involved students creating boxes full of items to celebrate each liturgical holiday occurring during the week and delivering them to students on campus. Tillema is releasing an interfaith project this month that features centering exercises from different faith traditions in audio form. Tillema found success in hosting a book club on campus giving out hard copies of the book beforehand. She noted, “They love being sent a physical copy of the book.”
 
The fourth panelist, Jonathan Bautista, a social worker and Marriage and Family counselor works as Junior High and Senior High counselor at St. Paul UMC in Fremont. He is also one of the leader-counselors in the Christmas Institute of the Filipino American Ministry Caucus. Bautista addressed the pressing social issues, as well as the health concerns, that face the youth and young adults during this time.
 
“There has been a compounding angst as we have navigated this time of pandemic..[we’ve] been dealing with on a daily basis,” added Tillema, “and racism—not a new thing, but these past few weeks—at the forefront of our minds it has added a whole new level to this pandemic.”
 
“And it is difficult for young adults to express themselves,” said Bautista. The panel agreed the younger generation has been faced with complex issues amid a quickly changing world. That is one reason Bautista provides various online opportunities for youth to share feelings, discuss issues, and find ways to put their energy into positive outlets. Some social activities have included Movie Nights, online cooking demos--complete with home delivery options and even starting a Pen Pal group. The youth have found ways to sing and harmonize online, too.
 
To build community, the panelists also listed various game apps players can use to interact with each other such as Quiplash and Drawful  at https://Jackboxgames.com among others.
 
“There is a lot more grief and pain being processed right now,” stated Frederiksen, “especially as waves of emotions have come, there is a sense of throwing up their arms in frustration and not leaning on the institutions that have been the biggest part of their lives.”
 
The panel discussed the positive impact of young adult fiction for helping younger people come to grips with issues of the day. One book in particular was recommended by Tillema entitled, “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas, 2018. Another source is the Mission U United Methodist Women book list for Young Adults https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/Media/PDF/2020ReadingProgramCatalog.pdf
 including “Finding Peace in An Anxious World” edited my Erin James-Brown https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/finding-peace-in-an-anxious-world
and “Push Out” by Monique Morris, 2018.
 https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/pushout-the-criminalization-of-black-girls-in-schools
 
Tillema highly recommended more resources at the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary at https://iym.ptsem.edu/resources/youth-ministry-in-pandemic/
 
“Some of the energy that comes with outrage is the need to do something now,” said Bautista explaining that young people are frantic to do something immediately by donating, signing petitions, going out and participating in some way.
 
“Ask your young adults directly how they want to address this,” said Tillema, in coming up with ways she has worked with youth and young adults. “Ask, ‘What do you want to see happen or action to take place to address this?’”
 
Thinking in terms of the overarching big picture of youth ministry, Frederiksen said that young people have a need for “a church that responds in a way that says, ‘We’re here with you.’”
 
For more information on this and other webinars visit the conference website at cnumc.org
 
Next week’s webinar is with Rev. Sadie Stone on “Levering Social Media.” Register HERE