Located in Lubbock, St. John’s UMC is a thriving Reconciling Church in conservative West Texas. Its youth have a lot to say about their local congregation and The United Methodist Church at large.
The youth of St. John’s have been a part of their church anywhere between 3-12 years. Theirs is an accepting and welcoming community with a particular way of life. The people are nice, they say, and the food is good.
Within St. John’s, there’s an even more tightly knit community that these young people belong to: a youth group that one participant calls “a perfect reflection of the church’s philosophy of acceptance.” Youth group is a place where youth can get to know others and be known, themselves. One participant says that youth group “expresses what it means to be part of the Church in a way that young people can understand.”
Another participant says, “I’ve never felt as much a part of a community as I do here. I have made many friends of all ages who inspire me to live out my faith more fully by giving my time and gifts.”
Last week, the youth of St. John’s UMC had the chance to answer some questions about their local congregation, themselves, and their hopes for our Church through General Conference. Here are some of their answers.
What have you learned from your church or youth group?
“I’ve built my character and learned about my religion and faith.”
“To treat all with an equal amount of respect. Friendship. And life lessons.”
“God is good, and God is love. John Wesley accidentally created the Methodist church.”
“I have learned how important it is to be in fellowship with my church family, volunteering with them, eating with them, and caring for them.”
“God truly loves everyone, no matter what. We were all created to be different, and it is our differences that make us special.”
“In the couple of months that I have been here in SJUMC, I’ve really understood many concepts of the church and how it may apply to the real world. I’ve also learned about how the congregation was very accepting and welcoming on membership of the church.”
“I have learned so much from my church and youth group. How to be a kind, loving person to other people. I have learned more about myself every time I go to church and I have made many connections to myself, God, and other people.”
What have you heard about what’s happening at General Conference 2019?
“The church is reviewing its current laws and possibly making new ones.”
“I have heard some, but not sure.”
“Some are waiting for love, rights, and marriage.”
“My church has been diligent about informing us of the conference later this month. The issue of LGBTQIA inclusion in the UMC is finally being discussed and hopefully changes are on the horizon at this conference. There are three main plans that have been brought forward to the GC.”
“GC2019 is a special circumstance where laws specifically regarding LGBTQ rights within the church leadership positions will be discussed and voted on.”
“Many of the churches in the district are coming together, discussing ways to improve the church. Possibly.”
“I have heard that the General Conference is going to debate about the General acceptance and mindset about sexuality. In general, they would decide about the LGBTQ situation.”
What do you hope the Church will be like in 2030?
“I hope the church overall will be more accepting and affirming.”
“I hope that all LGBTQ+ people will be fully welcome in ALL UMC churches.”
“Free. Have the right to marry anyone and be full of freedom.”
“I hope that the church will be inclusive of all people — especially including LGBTQIA persons. I hope to see LGBTQIA persons ordained and married in the church.”
“In 2030 I would hope that even though the Church and State should remain separated in terms of the creation of national legislation, the Church will be a role model for acceptance and equality and will be an example for policy-makers to be more inclusive.”
“Very accepting, just like it is now. [Like SJUMC.] I really don’t think that the church needs to change anything on how it is now, but that doesn’t mean that many things that the church praises now are beneficial. I think that just because there are certain people that want to be a part of the church doesn’t ensure that they have to be shunned from the church. But in 2030, I hope the church is even more accepting than it is now.”
“I hope the church will have figured out the imbalances and contradictions between its actions and its different churches by 2030. And that the church will be much more open to LGBTQ people.”
Why is a church important to you? To the world?
“The church is important to me because it is where I want to spend my life as a pastor. It is important to the world, as it is a place of worship and serenity. At St. John’s UMC, everyone is welcome, and what the church should be to all. At St. John’s, no matter who you are or where you come from, you will always have a place at St. John’s UMC.”
“Because it is accepting and allows people to be themselves.”
“The church is important to me because it provides a safe place to ask and discuss hard questions about life, death, why we’re here, and more. It is an organization that gives me opportunities to help my fellow person – something that is important to the world as well.”
“The church is important to me because it reminds me that I am part of something bigger than myself, and I believe the same applies to other religions around the world. When one believes in something bigger than one’s self, they are compelled to act in a way that is beneficial to more people.”
“Church. One word. To be combined into one and worshiping a deity that praises us to be accepting is that greatest thing in the world. The way of the church really shows how people who accept Jesus, care about how society thinks about the world of the church and its involvement in the world. I believe that the church helps me develop ideas for helping me deal with certain problems throughout my life and maybe problems throughout the world.”
“The church is important to me because it provides me with a place of peace and tranquility, a place of relationships and connections, a place to release my tension and anger, a place to talk about my ideas and thoughts, a place to pray to God for all good things, and for all and things, a place that I hope someday will lead humanity on a peaceful path.”
Do you know any LGBTQ people?
“Yes. They are phenomenal. Being gay makes them no different.”
“Yes. They are really nice and funny.”
“The majority of my closest friends at this time of my life are LGBTQIA and they are the best friends I could ask for. They have been there for me through thick and thin, and I am incredibly grateful for their presence in my life.”
“I do know some LGBTQ people, and they are just like everyone else.”
“Yes, they are very kind people. They have to deal with many stereotypes on their shoulders by people who don’t really care about their place in society. But, I hope that one day, the LGBTQ society sprouts up to the importance that it should have in the future.”
“I know many LGBTQ people, and they are the most kind, caring people that I have met on the planet. I see no reason to be prejudice against them or to criticize them.”
Do you think LGBTQ people belong in your church? Why or why not?
“Yes. Jesus preached the idea of loving and accepting ALL and they should be able to worship just like a straight person.”
“Yes. Just because you may be ‘different’ doesn’t mean you should be treated with less respect than others.”
“Yes. Because everyone should be allowed to be themselves.”
“Yes. God welcomes all people.”
“LGBTQ people do belong in the church because, like I said, they are just like everyone else. We are all God’s children and we have the right to worship God.”
“Yes, absolutely. They are people and that is all that matters. LGBTQ people can really have a more important impact on society than we straight people may understand.”
How should the Church be spending its time and money right now?
“To help those in need.”
“The Church should be spending the majority of its time and money on trying to be more inclusive in every aspect.”
“The Church should honestly be spending their money and time on improving the Church to help others, find themselves on who God is, and God’s love for them. The more people in the Church praising God, the more influence shall the Church have on the world as a whole.”
“I don’t know really how the church should be spending its time and money. I just hope that whatever they are spending it for has 100% good, wholesome reasons behind it, and that it is accepting to all people.”
What do you want to tell the delegates and people voting on the future of the Church?
“All people are welcome and entitled to worship God and marry whoever they wish.”
“All people should always be accepted.”
“EQUALITY! AKA, you do you, boo. AKA, just because someone is LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean they’re not people.”
“The UMC is in a very unique position among other denominations. Its diversity and global impact allow it to become a trailblazer in terms of relevant within the cultures of the world. Decisions can be made that impact the lives of many; however, it is up to the delegates and voters to determine what kind of example The United Methodist Church will be.”
“I want to tell them all I have said in the previous questions, all the ideas and thoughts that are going through my mind constantly.”
“Our generation may not understand the importance of the Church, but don’t punish them for the things they may not care about. Gay people are important people and they shouldn’t be punished for being themselves. The Church needs to accept them and comfort them because they might have had to live with hardships and troubles while trying to cope with the non-acceptance of others. If they realize that the Church is accepting of them, then they can express their importance to the Church. Also, the youth is much more important than you think. They are the future and so is the LGBTQ community. What would you do if a youth student turned out to be a part of the LGBTQ community? You really wouldn’t want to shun them from the Church because they are the Church. Members of that community are important: Black or white, young or old, happy or depressed, they belong to the found that is laid out for the Church.”