Engaging Young Adults for Mission in Local Churches in Bulacan, Philippines
We often read and hear of young adults in the United States leaving mainline denominations such as the United Methodist Church. What I found out, though, is that this phenomenon also happens in the Central Conferences, particularly in urban areas.
I know of several friends who served with me as youth leaders of the UMC in the Philippines who have now left the UMC and decided to become members of other evangelical, non-denominational churches. (Read my reflections about this in a previous post here)
So against this backdrop, I was so glad to hear and see how the Northeast Bulacan District (NEBD) of the Bulacan Philippines Annual Conference enables young adults to participate in the ministry and mission of its local churches.
Back in September, Dale Cancio (our YPM Philippines staff), and I sat down with Rev. Francis Fajardo, the District Superintendent of NEBD to talk about the district’s strategy in engaging young adults.
Dale Cancio, Rev. Francis Fajardo, and Mighty Rasing pose for a photo after having a lunch conversation about young adults in mission.
As with many different ministries, it started with a meal. DS Francis got in touch with several former leaders of the United Methodist youth in the district, and they talked about the young adults’ lives after their term in the UMYF, and the ministries, challenges, and realities of the church in the district.
DS Francis gave them a challenge: “Anong kaya n’yo dito?” (What can you do for our church in the district?)
A few months after their conversation, through the help of these young adults, the district organized a fundraising dinner in August 2015. That dinner raised PhP 118,000 (USD 2500), which was used to support 8 churches that could not support the salaries of their pastors and ministries.
This group of young adults eventually become known as the district’s Young Professionals’ Fellowship. They meet regularly—once or twice a month—for fellowship, study, and discipleship. DS Francis maintains a close relationship with each of them, serving as a mentor and a spiritual father.
Members of the Northeast Bulacan District’s Young Professionals Fellowship at their Fundraising Dinner on Aug 2015
These young adults participate in the life and ministry of the local churches in the district. A lot of them also serve as lay workers in local churches during the weekend. They are almost like missionaries who lend their expertise and provide support to the pastor and the congregation. Some pastors are very good in caring for the spiritual health of their flocks, but they may lack some report-writing and administrative skills. And so, these young adults provide support in those areas and more.
Whisper, a licensed teacher, is one of those who volunteered to serve. She handles the youth and children’s ministries in a local church. Mary, who recently got her Law degree, is another volunteer who helps out a local church, but also helps with the district’s paperwork and other administrative matters.
These young adults, who are earning money as professionals, also give their tithes to the churches where they are assigned, helping even the financial health of these local congregations. Ten of the 25 local churches of the district have received volunteers. In turn, these local churches cover transportation costs for the volunteers. It might not be a lot, but DS Francis says that such a token gesture helps the local church express appreciation for the volunteers.
There are many missionary opportunities in the United Methodist Church worldwide. But perhaps, we also need local solutions, such as mobilizing the districts and annual conferences to provide opportunities for young adults to use their gifts in ministry.
As the experience of this district shows, when we challenge young adults, they rise up to the challenge, they use their skills for the church, and in turn, the church grows. These young adults, too, grow in their faith and express deeper appreciation for the ministries of the church.