They were inspired to help young adults like themselves struggling to find a place in their local churches. A group of friends from the Tampa Bay area wanted to bring people together to help meet this challenge and formed a gathering called the Lineage Retreat.
The retreat was held September 23-24 at Warren Willis in Fruitland Park and was designed to facilitate a conversation with Christians who felt distant from God by illustrating how the church is still relevant.
It fell under the umbrella of “Fresh Expressions,” a movement within The United Methodist Church that seeks to reach new people in new ways, especially those who have drifted away from religion in their lives.
|Said to be excited to "see what God has in store for them," Zac and Steph Burke, of College Park, attended the Lineage Retreat Sept. 23-24 at Warren Willis in Fruitland Park. Zac is a middle school youth minister at St. Luke's UMC.|
Two of the retreat coordinators were Brandon Ransbottom and Chris Wolf. Ransbottom is owner of a production company called Vital North Creative and graduate of Florida State University’s film school. He is also co-leader of a group for young adults at Allendale UMC in St. Petersburg. Wolf is the worship leader at First UMC in Dunedin.
“The Lineage Retreat is actually a homegrown event,” said Ransbottom.
“A small group of seven of us in the Tampa Bay area came together wanting to do something for young adults in Florida who were struggling to find a place in their local church. We went for it,” he commented further, “and because we have so many ties to UMC, the church saw that it fit with Fresh Expressions and stepped up and supported us.”
The two-day event included speakers, worship experiences and small group discussions. It was primarily advertised through social media and word-of-mouth in churches and college ministries. Over 90 people attended.
“We wanted to start a conversation about whether the church is redeemable and worth your time, and we wanted to answer with, ‘yes, it is,’” said Ransbottom, “but present a robust challenge: What does it look like for you to be an innovator in faith and follow God’s call?”
“As far as speakers go, we wanted them to be from diverse backgrounds, ages and gender,” said Wolf.
Rev. Emily Hotho of Skycrest UMC, spoke about life in the church as it is today and the value in that. Derrick Scott, 36, who leads a Fresh Expressions group in Jacksonville called Urban Soul, discussed the different seasons of life and how to connect with God outside the church.
Two participants in the retreat were Matt Harrell, 28, coordinator of Fresh Expressions for the Florida Conference, and his wife, Nina, 27.
“My wife and I moved back to Florida after being in Georgia for six years,” he said. “Since we’re not working for a specific church, we’re somewhat in a place of limbo and a little unsettled. That was a big reason we decided to go.”
“One of our goals was to connect people with one another geographically,” said Wolf. Those who joined in had opportunities to brainstorm and discuss how to become more connected to God and the church.
The Tampa Bay group was the largest geographic area represented, with close to 30 young people. Participants also came from Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and beyond.
“I really liked breaking out into the regional groups,” said Harrell. “The conversations that were stirred up in that space ended up being really good for us, and for the group as well.”
Another participant in the Lineage Retreat was Cristina Batista, a recent college graduate and social worker from Tallahassee. Batista grew up going to non-denominational churches before graduating from FSU. She heard about the Lineage Retreat through social media and acquaintances.
“I just thought it would be such a great thing to explore what that meant,” she said. “Being in this space of life after college, it’s still hard to find where my place is and how I can contribute to a church that’s not just run by college students.
“It’s hard to figure out how you fit into a larger church and a more diverse experience,” she added. “At the retreat, I was learning from different people who felt the same way.”
Batista’s career plays a large role in her faith, something the retreat allowed her to address as well. “I focus on the prison population and that’s hard within the church. There are different feelings that go with that,” she said.
“I’m passionate about reconciliation and the restoration of that group and how that fits within the church. So discussing lineage, talking about where you think you’re going and why that’s important to you, and how you’re going to bring that to church, was really encouraging.”
“I definitely think the Lineage Retreat was meaningful,” said Harrell. “Sometimes it’s really good to know that other people are in a similar place as you and you’re not alone. It’s also quite encouraging to hear optimism and other people’s desires to continue pursuing their faith.
“I felt encouraged, reenergized. I felt excited that there are a lot of young leaders in and around the state that are excited about being part of a community.”
--Jessica Chapman is a freelance writer based in Lakeland.
To learn more, visit www.lineageretreat.com.