By: Christa Meland
Many churches have long struggled to attract young adults, and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated that challenge.
Rick Belbutoski, director of youth and young adult ministries at Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis, recently got to thinking about a way to connect with young adults while making the barrier to entry as low as possible.
He came up with “Cinema and the Street,” which will kick off next month. On Oct. 2, he’ll host a virtual showing of a documentary called “Push” about how the lack of affordable housing is impacting people around the planet. Afterward, attendees will gather on Zoom to talk about what they learned and felt, and explore how it connects to their convictions and lived experiences. The movie and discussion will be followed up with an Oct. 16 invitation to prepare a meal, serve, and eat with neighbors staying in the shelter at Simpson Housing Services in Minneapolis to directly connect with some of those most impacted by the lack of adequate housing in the Twin Cities. Simpson Housing Services’ mission is to house, support, and advocate for people experiencing homelessness.
Belbutoski said this two-part opportunity is meant to provide “like-hearted” individuals a shared experience and help them make a difference in their community. He came up with the idea after a colleague learned about gooddocs.net and shared the resource with him. He added the service component after asking himself: What would the best possible outcome to watching a documentary be?
“Millennials volunteer at a high rate, and many who are looking for a faith community are more interested in what the church is doing in the community than in the sanctuary on Sunday,” he said. “My hope is that this program excites ‘like-hearted’ people inside and outside of the Hennepin community…I hope people are moved to make a difference.”
This opportunity directly aligns with Hennepin’s mission and outreach efforts. The church is committed to working toward racial, economic, and environmental justice, and connecting digitally with people who don’t know about how Hennepin supports people on their faith journey.
Belbutoski plans to offer another documentary and service opportunity in November and December. He hasn’t yet selected November’s movie but says it will focus on issues of racial, economic, or environmental justice.
Young adults from other churches and communities are welcome to participate in the October event (learn more and get connection info), but this model could also be replicated in other churches across Minnesota.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church