In the U.S., statistics suggest that fewer people are participating in organized religion than in past years. Many churches especially struggle with how to attract young members. A congregation in Chicago is bucking that trend by taking ministry to the streets and filling the seats on Sunday morning.
(Locator: Chicago, Illinois)
Jovan Landry, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “Going to Urban Village Church gives me like an affirmation. ‘Yes, you can be different and still want to go to church.’ I love what this church stands for.”
Many churches are challenged with how to attract members under the age of 35. But Urban Village United Methodist in Chicago has no shortage of millenials leading worship, outreach ministries and small groups.
Kim Harvey, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “It’s justice driven, it’s service driven. It’s message and gospel-based.”
The Rev. Brittany Isaac, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “We tend to be a very young adult church. And because we’re in a retirement center it actually is allowing us to have the opportunity to build cross-generational relationships, which is really good.”
This growing congregation meets in four locations, including a theater, a retirement home, and a seminary.
The Rev. Trey Hall, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “Every church says, ‘We’re not the building. We’re something else.’ But at Urban Village we actually practice that because we don’t have a building.”
Trey Hall co-founded Urban Village to be a church whose identity isn’t tied to a building but to its people.
The Rev. Trey Hall: “We march in parades and hand out invitations to church. We set up booths at neighborhood art festivals and invite people to come in and make art with us and ask them questions. One of the things we do on Ash Wednesday is we stand near the entrances to subway stations and offer to put ashes on people’s foreheads, offer them a prayer, offer them a blessing and also an invitation to church.”
The Rev. Brittany Isaac: “Most people in the millennial generation care about what the church is doing.”
Methodism’s founder John Wesley believed that faith should inspire a life of service to others. This faith family seeks to be actively relevant in the community. Members bring their dogs to the retirement home for “yappy hour,” and leaders encourage dialogue about topics like white privilege.
Evan and Tarra Sharp, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “For me one of the more impactful experience that I’ve had here was when our congregation went outside and stopped traffic, kind of at the height of the Ferguson and other kind of Black Lives Matter Movement. It meant a lot for me just in terms of what the people of Urban Village are willing to do and willing to explore.”
The Rev. Christian Coon, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “Our mission statement is creating Jesus loving, inclusive communities that ignite the city. And we think every aspect of that mission statement was carefully chosen and prayed about.”
Pastor Christian Coon co-founded Urban Village in 2009 with a vision for a welcoming faith community.
Sergio Criollo, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “We’re never told what to believe in. We’re just told ‘This is what it is and you can actually figure out how that plays into your life’ which I think I like.”
Members say Urban Village is a church where people of all ages can feel safe and loved by God.
Philip Cordes, Urban Village United Methodist Church: “I’ll sit there and watch as members of this body that I’m part of participate in a free and open communion. And that’s one of the best and most beautiful things that I get to experience.”
The Rev. Brittany Isaac: “We live in a city of three million people. And it can be really lonely and isolating. And I think the church is successful and powerful when it shows up in people’s lives. It has been joyful to see people show up in each other’s lives.”
This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.
This video was first posted on May 24, 2016.