18-27 Year Olds: Filling The Gap With The Bridge

The Bridge

Garland, Rockwall, Rowlett, Sachse and Wylie churches band together to offer young adult ministry

“What I like most about The Bridge is that it fills a gap in ministry where we often see a void — a group for 18- to 27-year-olds who are often disconnected from church life.” For Collin College student Corbin Hoevers, 20, The Bridge young adult ministry has become a place to make real connections with others his age and in his stage of life. 

This young adult group is a collaborative partnership of five churches in the northeast suburbs of Dallas: First UMC Garland, First UMC Rockwall, First UMC Rowlett, First UMC Sachse and Wylie UMC. They have been gathering weekly for dinner, conversation and a lesson about faith since August 2023. 

Rev. Travis Burdett, Associate Pastor at First UMC Rowlett, recognized the need to fill this gap in ministry with young adults and began by emailing the churches within a 10-mile radius. 

“There are not enough young adults in any single church to form a coherent group,” Burdett said, “but it’s a vital ministry for those that are in the church.”

Burdett experienced strong collaborative youth ministry through UM Army and also participated in a group of young adults from several churches when he was attending Collin College. 

“I was really involved in the Wesley Foundation at the University of Oklahoma, and I really appreciated how that was a place where I could experiment with leadership, and I was free to fail,” Burdett recalled. “So I've become a really big believer in giving the young adults in the group the freedom to take charge and take leadership.”

While he originally intended The Bridge to be discussion-based, the young adults expressed a desire to learn. “At the Holy Spirit’s leading and their passion, it’s become more me teaching them about things. They have a real hunger to learn about aspects of faith that maybe they didn’t learn at church or in school and a real excitement around that,” Burdett said. 

For UTD student Liberty Cowan, 19, the group has helped her strengthen her faith. “We talk about faith and its practical application in a young adult's life," she said. “I feel like I can connect with God on a more tangible level.” 

While some are in college and others are in the workforce, these young adults have found common ground and built a strong support system with one another. 

“Good things happen when a trusting community is built. That’s where discipleship really happens and I’ve seen that slowly develop,” Burdett said. “There’s always that transient nature of young adult life, but it’s clearly become important to them to come together.” 

Consistency is a common challenge in young adult ministry because it’s much harder for young adults to attend every week. Cowan said, “The Bridge is a ‘no-commitment’ sort of group. Life happens, and sometimes you have to miss the meeting one week. There is no shame in it, and you are welcomed back with open arms every time.”

The group shares their worries, anxieties and joys with one another, and they often check in with each other about what’s going on in their lives. It has also helped the members see new and differing points of view. 

“The group has helped me take in perspectives from many different people which I think is an important staple of Christianity,” Hoevers said. “Whether that be from hearing about what’s going on in fellow members’ lives or learning about different denominations or religions in a recent study series. I hope to see our group reach plenty more young adults in the area. I would love to connect with as many new people as possible and see the group grow organically.”

Cowan shares that desire for the group to grow. “I hope that more and more young adults will find safety and comfort in this group like I do,” she said. “We can travel, visit more churches and learn even more about the world we are trying to navigate.”

As the young adults in The Bridge navigate their world, Burdett notes that many of their stresses are connected to questions of identity and who they are apart from their families, as well as how to handle the challenges of life. 

“Money is so much harder today compared to 20 years ago from where I was,” Burdett said. “It’s so much harder to make a living wage, so much harder to pay for a car. Everything seems to be a little bit harder, so there's stress and anxiety around that. And I also think there’s a passion to dig into their faith, but a wariness of a safe place to do that.”

The Bridge has become a safe place to bring anxieties about life and questions about faith as they learn and grow. The leaders recognize that this could be a reproducible model for other churches and have begun working with Rev. Marianne Brown-Trigg, campus minister at the Denton Wesley, on how to make The Bridge scalable for other clusters of churches. 

This ministry is doing more than filling a void for young adults, it is helping shape the future leaders of our church. 

Burdett emphasized: “These are the people that are going to be leading our church. Whether they’re our pastors or not, they’re going to be our SPRC leaders, our trustees, our worship leaders, and we need to be pouring into them.”

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2024