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Reaching Across Generations at United Methodist

The 175-year-old Libertyville church is committed to reaching all age groups and helping them develop their spirituality and talents.

Editor's note: This story is part of a faith series I'm working on that highlights our local places of worship. If you'd like to see your church featured in this series, contact me, editor Korrina Grom, at korrina.grom@patch.com.

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For Steve and Jamie Williams, there are plenty of things for the to love about .

Steve says there's a high level of talent and depth of spiritual commitment at the 1,500-member, 175-year-old church.

"I would say it's one of the most blessed experiences I've had in ministry in 30 years," said Steve, noting that the members are conscientious and committed to the work of Jesus Christ. "They inspire us every day."

"It's just a wonderful congregation," added Jamie.

It's a congregation that is diverse in its age range, and Steve, Jamie and the rest of the church team aim to serve all of those age groups.

Jamie said she loves that diversity.

"We have members who are in their 90s, and lots of babies, and lots of young families," she said. "That presents challenges in ministering to all the different ages and stages."

Reaching the various age groups was a goal that came out of the church's recent "dreaming process," Jamie said. Three hundred people met in small groups to talk about the future of the church.

"There was a careful effort to collect the data," said Steve. There were 2,100 dreams in all, he said, that ranged from paving the parking lot to renovating the sanctuary.

The process resulted in six "dream initiatives" that focused on areas like worship, technology, children/youth and outreach. One initiative focused on spiritual growth and ministering to everyone from babies to seniors. Another focused on trying to reach people in their 20s and 30s. This summer, Youth Pastor Ben Hallett started groups for college students and 20-somethings.

The church already has a solid youth program with two youth pastors, along with a Christian education director. There are also Bible studies, a visitation team that meets with people in need and Stephen Ministers who provide more intense support for people during crises.

Helping Those in Need

"As I think about this church, there's a real commitment to those who are in need," said Jamie. The church serves as a Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) site.

"There's a strong mission emphasis," added Steve. Seventeen people visited tornado-ravaged Joplin, MO, and 63 people performed an Appalachia youth service project. "There's a real heart for it."

United Methodist is also involved in the local community. The church borrows warehouse space from Aldridge Electric and stores furniture for people in need. .

There's also the annual spring and fall rummage sales.

"People respond when there's a need," said Jamie.

Appreciation for Worship

Another thing that is significant about the church's congregation, Steve said, is its "great appreciation for the scripture." He said members long to hear intelligent teaching that is "relevant, real and life-giving to all the generations." Steve particularly enjoys hearing his wife preach.

"I like 90 percent of what she says," he joked.

"We help people in understanding, 'How does this affect my life.' That application is really critical," said Jamie.

United Methodist offers two worship services — traditional and contemporary.

Jamie wants United Methodist to continue reaching out across the age groups and then help those people develop their spiritual lives. She wants everyone to feel connected.

"I think there are a lot of service opportunities and a great chance to be a part of a community of caring that doesn't have all of the answers, but we're looking to God," said Steve.

Read other stories from our faith series:

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