From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Young people share dreams on new Web site

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 20 Jun 2002 14:16:51 -0500

June 20, 2002 News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert7(615) 742-54707Nashville,
Tenn.   10-71BP{266}

NOTE: Head-and-shoulders photographs of Drew Dyson and Ciona Rouse are
available with this story.

A UMNS Feature
By Kathy L. Gilbert*

Young people are dreaming about a future for the United Methodist Church,
and they are doing it in cyberspace.

Shared Mission Focus on Young People, a global initiative of the
denomination, recently launched a new Web site,,
designed to give young people a forum for sharing their hopes and dreams
about the church.

Log onto the Web site and you can read dreams from people like Max from
Moscow, Russia, who envisions a church "that has no boundaries for ministry
with young people." Another writer dreams of a church "that invites young
people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and walks with them through a
lifetime of discipleship."

The Web site is being promoted during jurisdictional youth gatherings this
summer and is "being linked as many places as possible," says Drew Dyson,
executive director of the initiative in Nashville, Tenn.

Julie O'Neal, a student at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City,
Mo., and a co-leader of the Shared Mission Focus team, says the site was
born out of a desire to see what the church looks like now and what it could
look like in the future.

"For me, the Web page encourages people to search their inner self, for
through their dreams comes a spring of life that propels all of us to be
faithful to the calling placed ahead of us," she says. "It reminds me that
there is hope in challenging the church to change." 

Gerald "Jay" Williams, a student at Harvard and the other co-leader of the
Shared Mission Focus team, wants people to know the site is not just a
suggestion box.

"Of course, we want suggestions, comments and feedback  ... but mostly we
want dreams," he says. "We want people to express some of the hopes and
dreams that you don't normally express at a church council meeting ... some
of the thoughts that you have for the church after you're leaving Sunday
worship. ... You know, some of the ideas that you have for the Body of
Christ when you're in the shower and there's no one to listen."

"I think that the dreams that we've collected so far have been honest and
inspiring, and even a bit challenging to what people may be ready to hear,"
O'Neal says. "I hope that whoever looks at this Web site sees the validity
in ministry with young people and reminds us all of how important it is."

Both O'Neal and Williams agree that they want young people to know the site
is an opportunity for them to have a voice in the United Methodist Church.

"When you think the people in your local church aren't listening, post a
dream to the dream page," Williams says. "When you want your voice to be
heard loud and clear, log on to The Shared Mission
Focus on Young People was formed for this very purpose ... to make a dream
for the church a reality."

The bottom of the site's home page proclaims, "The SMFYP is a movement of
the Holy Spirit calling young people to be world-changing disciples of Jesus

"With the Spirit of Pentecost that blows from every direction like the wind,
we tell to all who will hear: 'Watch out, God is about to do a new thing in
the UMC and in the world,'" Williams says.  

Rouse joins team

Besides launching the new Web site, the Shared Mission Focus is adding a
staff member. Ciona Rouse joins the Nashville staff as the communications
and project coordinator July 22. 

"We are delighted to have Ciona joining our staff. She has extraordinary
gifts in the area of communications as well as a passion for ministry for,
with and by young people," Dyson says. "We really had an incredible pool of
talented young people to choose from for this position," he adds.

A South Carolina native, Rouse has been active in ministries for young
people since middle high school. 

"I look forward wholeheartedly to working for the mission and vision of
young people across the connection," she says.

Rouse was the recipient of United Methodist Communications' 2001-2002 Judith
Weidman Racial Ethnic Minority Fellowship in religion communications, and
she is a graduate of Columbia (S.C.) College, where she earned a bachelor's
degree in English. 

She moves to Nashville after spending her fellowship year working at the
office of communications in the Baltimore-Washington Conference in Columbia,
Md. During internships, she has also worked with an NBC affiliate in
Columbia, S.C., and the U.S. Senate Recording Studio, and she produced a
nationally syndicated radio program for older Americans. 

In her new position, Rouse will be responsible for developing and
implementing a comprehensive communications strategy for the Shared Mission
Focus. In addition, she will manage special projects such as a
leadership-training institute for young people and comprehensive youth
ministry training in the central conferences.
# # #
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville,

United Methodist News Service
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