Religion feature: Bible group reaches out to Millennials

Rick Wilcher, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Portales, joked and laughed with other church members Thursday night before beginning their evening Bible study on the book of Revelation.

CMI staff photo:Alisa Boswell

Rick Wilcher, right, leads a bible study on the book of Revelation Thursday night at Calvary Baptist Church in Portales as Barbara Jones, left, and Shana Beggs take notes. Wilcher said the bible study, along with one on Sunday, is a mix of a variety of ages from the those in their 30s and up.

"I learn a whole lot more from them than they learn from me," Wilcher, who leads the Bible study, said of the class members.

He said the class includes a variety of ages with people ranging from early 30s and up.

"Different people from different walks of life and different ages works out really well," he said of the bible study groups. "People who have been there and done that can help someone through a part of their life that they've already been through. And sometimes younger people can bring a fresh and unique perspective."

Generation Y, or the Millennials, are a generation based largely on spirituality rather than religion, according to local church officials, who are making it a point to spiritually serve the younger generation of Clovis and Portales.

"I think this generation is more spiritual than previous generations but a lot less religious," said Don Thomas, senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Portales and director of the Christian Campus House on the Eastern New Mexico University campus. "They go where they feel like they're making an impact. They want to impact lives. They're very specific about that."

Thomas said when he became the director of the campus house in 2005, his entire goal was to create a place where people of a variety of ages, backgrounds and cultures could feel safe.

He said the house's Tuesday night bible study, Spectrum, is about people being able to openly share their ideas and beliefs without judgment.

"We really try to make it discussion based. It's not about me being a preacher and them listening," Thomas said. "It's more in a homey, living room format than it is a church atmosphere. We stay away from doctrinal issues. It's more about discussing what faith is and how it applies to me. I don't want to shove religion down people's throats. It's more about developing a relationship with God."

Paul Smith, the director of the Church of Christ Student Center on the ENMU campus, said the goal of the center is the same, to offer a safe place where no judgment is passed, only the sharing of spiritual thoughts and ideas.

"This is just such a critical time in a person's life," Smith said of young adults. "They're beginning to make decisions about career and life. They are making such critical decisions, so it's important to offer them support in whatever way we can."

Smith, who is the center's brand new director, said the center has two academic religious classes held in it currently and anyone can come visit him any time, but at the beginning of the new year, he hopes to start a casual Sunday lunch in which young adults can come and discuss spiritual ideas with each other.

"Another thing I would like to do is a kind of spiritual guidance group to help deal with those big issues and spiritual questions, such as should I get married? Should I not? What do I do with my life?" Smith said. "I don't look at it as so much providing answers but just providing guidance to come up with an answer that's appropriate for their life."

The Brink is a worship program at Faith Christian Family Church geared toward people ages 19 to 33.

The program is run completely by young adults and is pastored by associate pastor Jason Swann.

Swann said meetings have a small group feel and allow communication through a relaxed open forum with the worship being completely acoustic.

"We just want it to be a place where young adults can get together, get to know each other and experience God and his word in maybe a unique way," said Swann, who has pastored the program for about six years. "We know what we want because we are young adults. We're not trying to figure each other out. If it's cool to us then it's cool."

— CMI staff writer Benna Sayyed contributed to this report.

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