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Story Stained Glass provides innovative approach to reaching young adults

Stained Glass provides innovative approach to reaching young adults

It’s a movement that is targeting Millennials and catching on in several Disciples churches in Illinois.

Central Christian Church in Decatur, Ill.Hannah Fitch had an idea. The former youth associate at Central Christian Church in Decatur, Ill., a congregation that participated in Hope Partnership’s New Beginnings service, wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between the churched and the under or unchurched young adults in their community. Through her personal experience, she noted that many Millennials found the traditional concept of church ineffective and oftentimes stifling.

Hannah began to do research on ways to engage this group. To create an initial base, she visited a local university in the Decatur, Ill. area and introduced herself to undergrads. She gave them a care package containing ramen noodles, laundry detergent, instant coffee, and chocolate in exchange for their contact information, and invited them to a free meal and discussion twice a month.

stained-glass programThe program is called Stained Glass and is a movement designed to unite young adults between 20 to 30 years, so that they can experience one another in a safe, thought-provoking, encouraging and loving environment.

No, this is not a community that makes stained glass windows, but rather stained glass is used to describe the concept of the group. Just as stained glass is made up of several fragments of glass, shaped, sized and colored differently, so is this community.

“When brought together within a framework, these fragments create something beautiful; a work of art,” says Hannah. “Some fragments are rich, some poor, some white, some Hispanic, some educated, some artistic, some religious.” She says what connects each fragment of the community is love.

Stained Glass uses the Disciples identity statement as the premise: “A movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” The group meets twice a month over a free dinner. Through research she discovered one way to engage the community is by meeting them where they are.

“A glance around the sanctuary on Sunday morning reveals the trend that young adults are choosing not to attend church,” says Hannah.

That’s why Stained Glass is not designed like a typical church. Hannah explains, when the group meets they converse on such topics as humility, manipulation, civic responsibilities, workplace and gender dynamics. And most importantly, these topics are discussed in an environment that fosters openness, togetherness, and community-centered action.

One participant describes the appeal of Stained Glass,

“The group has attracted a number of people from very diverse backgrounds that each offer a unique perspective to whatever that night’s topic is. Although in the discussions we sometimes tend to focus on how we impact others or our community, to me the discussions are an opportunity for me to learn from the experiences of others and to reflect on areas of my life that I need to improve.”

According to Hannah, since Stained Glass was created one year ago, this outreach program has welcomed 70 young adults to Central Christian Church.

Hannah also coordinated childcare, transportation and catering volunteers for the program.

For more information about Stained Glass, contact Central Christian Church at central@cccdisciples.org.

Central Christian Church participated in Hope Partnership’s New Beginnings Assessment Service, a program that assesses a congregation’s strengths and challenges as it seeks to redevelop its ministry. The goal of New Beginnings is to help congregations answer the question, “What is God calling us to do and be in this time and place.” Visit www.hopepmt.org/nb for more information about New Beginnings.