“A Sunday Afternoon at Sumatanga”
On Sunday, August 9, more than 500 people from the 132 churches of the Mountain Lakes District gathered in Hutto Auditorium at Sumatanga for a time of celebration, testimony, play and work.
More than one-half of the gathering group were under the age of 20 as Mountain Lake United Methodists celebrated the fruits of Inside/Out. The Inside/Out ministry in the district had small churches working together toward visioning and team building as they prepared to spend the summer building relationships with children in their communities.
In late May, graduating high school seniors and college students began working with those churches in their communities for six weeks empowering the efforts of the churches. Results include 140 children reached through these churches (the largest of which has average worship attendance of 100 and the smallest of 22). Three children were baptized as well.
The churches are continuing with a new vision and new energy for future ministry.
The young people of the district were asked the question, “What does the church need to do differently to engage young people in ministry?”
These young people replied saying they need:
- Authentic Leadership from their local church
- The truth with no “sugar coating” about the Bible, faith, and service
- Respect, which translates to being taken seriously as growing disciples of Christ
- Unification in the church body with parts working together
- Life skills and ministry skills that will be taught with expectations and opportunities for them to be utilized
- Sermons that speak to young people and the opportunity to participate and lead in worship
- Utilize technology that is ever changing in worship, teaching and service
After sharing pizza and soft drinks purchased from and prepared by Sumatanga, the young people and their leaders went to the pool, the big field, the volleyball court and up the mountain. The adults continued working in small groups around the responses from these young people. The conversation was engaging.
Those gathered were challenged during the afternoon as Carry Gray, wife of Director of Congregational Development Tommy Gray, shared her story of coming to a commitment to Christ after a younger life apart from the church. She shared how she grew in that faith, with gratitude given to her home church (Guntersville First UMC), and learned how to be a witness of Christ’s love and how to be a continual invitation herself to family members, friends and co-workers.
Mountain Lakes District Superintendent Bill Gandy says, "We are learning in Mountain Lakes that many good things happen inside the church walls, but the most amazing ministry always takes place in the community. Lovett Weems challenges us regularly that Methodism grew to its height when Methodists went where the people are. We are learning to reclaim that basic missional premise in Mountain Lakes."