Growing with the Spirit | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
October 2016

Growing with the Spirit

By Carl Gladstone (NCJ & NEJ)

World-Changing Communities of Spirit-Filled Young People

Too often the church reduces “spiritual growth” to subtle internal changes in thinking. This growth emerges from quiet prayer times or during moments of retreat from the world. Some young people, though, practice a more powerful form of spiritual growth. Today, through Chrysalis and Journey to the Table, young United Methodists grow in the full power of the Holy Spirit. In the process they connect personal piety with world-changing social holiness.

Here I Am, Send Me

Chrysalis ( communities gather youth for weekends of spiritual discernment, biblical teaching and prayer. This historic program draws together young people and adult leaders. Together they create communities that encourage going deeper in the Christian faith. Chrysalis participants step into an experience that gives space for soul-searching and direction-finding.

Paloma Rodriguez, Chrysalis participant and team member from Puerto Rico, connects her experience to Isaiah 6:8. Chrysalis gave Paloma space to ask the biblical question, “Whom shall I send?” Her answer, “here I am, send me!”

For many young people, Chrysalis serves as this kind of awakening moment. Weekend retreats offer youth an invitation to choose the Christian journey for themselves for the first time. Post-retreat groups allow participants to witness the ongoing spiritual awakening in their friends. These "Fourth Day" communities help each individual discern his or her particular calling on that journey. This spiritual growth experience extends far beyond a few quiet moments of prayerful insight. Rather, young people claim deep practices and relationships connecting them with the power of the Holy Spirit.

A New Journey

To facilitate this kind of spiritual growth into young adulthood the Upper Room has piloted a new option for gathering communities of 18-35 year-olds called Journey To The Table ( While Chrysalis weekends provide existing communities for youth to discover their spiritual calling, Journey To The Table seeks to empower young adults in creating new communities for such spiritual growth among their peers.

Geoff Parker, Program Manager - Young Adult Spiritual Development with The Upper Room describes Journey To The Table’s focus like this:

“Journey To The Table works with young adults immersed in transitory ways of life. These millennials, being cause-driven, have a vision for an evolution in how the Body of Christ exists. They are individuals moving down this journey with the Holy Spirit. And, it’s a structure creating movement, not just a structure occupying one.”

Through Journey To The Table, young people remind the church that growing with the Holy Spirit requires constant innovation and offers ongoing blessings and surprises. So, when Jessica Bunting found herself relocating across the country, she stayed connected to her own spiritual journey by helping design the first gatherings of Journey To The Table as a part of the program’s design team. Her own Chrysalis experience and engagement with Emmaus communities prepared her for the work of blessing others on their spiritual journeys as young adults.

Jessica reflects that Chrysalis, Emmaus and now Journey To The Table communities “always give me a place to feel at home.” From Virginia to Delaware and now in Maryland these communities have been there for her and continue to offer new ways for Jessica and her friends to pursue powerful growth in the Holy Spirit.

In fact, Journey To The Table is specifically designed with components that can adapt to a variety of settings and timeframes. Communities can gather weekly for potlucks, for one-night retreats or on other schedules that fit the particular needs of a given group of young people.

Unlike Chrysalis, Journey To The Table attempts to engage with the communication tools familiar to young adults in an effort to encourage them as leaders for the spiritual growth of others. An Instagram photo or Snapchat post can witness to the spiritual growth experience of one young adult and may serve as an invitation for others to pursue their own spiritual journey.

Paloma, Geoff and Jessica all celebrate the ways in which Journey To The Table complements existing Chrysalis and Emmaus offerings and provides a seamless way for young people to both begin and continue their spiritual growth journeys throughout their entire lives.

The Gift Provided

The biblical story of Titus reminds us of the world-changing power that young people have when encouraged to grow deeper in the power of the Holy Spirit. This “loyal child” or follower of Paul is entrusted to start churches, appoint elders and teach men, women and young people in the ways of Christ. This young person, pursuing his own spiritual growth, finds the completion of that work through action in the world.

Geoff Parker describes this ministry action as the gift young people can offer to all of Christ’s body. Through deep internal reflection and willingness to make that spiritual insight real in the lives of others, young people live out the truest call to Christian discipleship.

For those youth and young adults pursuing spiritual growth through Chrysalis and Journey To The Table, we pray for the action outcomes of their journey with the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the new communities that will form, the lives that will change, the causes that will be pursued and the immanent co-creation of God’s kin-dom on Earth that will emerge.

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