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Park River leans into Fresh Expressions with Shout Worship and community youth group

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

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On Wednesday night in Park River, North Dakota, three young men gather people for worship music, a message and invite people for a time of prayer. It is called Shout Worship, based on Matthew 10: 27

What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! Matthew 10:27, NLT

"Three young men that hang out together decided that God was calling them to start a ministry for teens and early twenties type people," said Pastor Jesse Irvine, Park River Federated and St. Thomas UMC. "They all felt like there's just nothing geared towards teens or early twenties. They wanted to bring something new and fresh. They just went for it."

Shout Worship was launched in May 2023. Throughout the summer, people gathered on Thursday evenings. The service has moved to Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. The three take turns organizing different parts of the worship service and giving the message.

"The message is whatever they feel is on their spirit to speak about. That is what they go wiwi†h. One week, one of them shared their testimony about a crisis in their life. Another week it was Bible Trivia," said Pastor Jesse. "When they started, the music was like karaoke style. Then, it moved to more Christian contemporary music. Now they write and play their own music."

Irvine describes the worship style as not traditional but more interactive with people. "It's less structured. One week, they decided to sit on a couple of stools and let people ask questions. Then they answered them the best they could," said Pastor Jesse. "This is young people doing church as they would like to see it."

Living out what it means to be a community together is what it is all about, shares Pastor Jesse. "The two most important things to them are the worship music and the prayer. They are creating a community. I think that is what they are really living out. They were missing that in a traditional church."

All three of the guys are musicians. One is a percussionist. In the high school band, he won the John Phillip Award as the top band person. Another cannot read music, but he plays piano and keyboard by sound. The third person taught himself the guitar. He played trumpet in high school but taught himself how to play the guitar. One of them has a keyboard that will create digital music as well.

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In the community of Park River, with a population of 1,500, there are five churches in town. All the churches offer a traditional type of worship. Park River Federated Church is comprised of Presbyterian U.S.A. and United Methodists. Park River Federated Church partners with a Free Lutheran church and a Baptist church. Together, they have a youth group and a worship service in the park.

"We had a service together. I opened the service. Then, the Shout Worship team did all the music. Then there was a speaker at the end," shares Pastor Jesse. "We had a big picnic together. We all have come together. We agree on the foundational doctrine of the Bible, Jesus's birth, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. The rest of it doesn't matter. Our job is to be witnesses to who Christ is."

The youth group happens on Sunday nights from 7-9 p.m. It starts with music, led by a local music teacher. Then, there is a lesson followed by crazy activities.

"We started doing a community youth group. We all had small groups of youth. We thought we could do this on our own or try something together," Pastor Jesse said. "My heart has always been about the kids. I'm a father of five. I feel like the Church—all denominations; we failed the kids long ago. We don't tailor anything to them as soon as they're done with confirmation. Teenage kids have a hard time with the traditional church. Younger people feel like something is missing. I've set out to try and change that."

Pastor Jesse is leaning into Fresh Expressions. "I'm the type of pastor willing to walk into a bar on a Thursday night and just sit and talk to people. I'm not drinking with them. I'm actively going there and engaging people. I coach junior high football. I run a hockey program. I'm highly involved in my community. I feel like that's what fresh expressions is about. It is stepping out of the church and meeting people where they're at as opposed to saying you need to walk into the door."


Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions | September 30: Over the next year, Rev. Dr. Michael Beck will help you create a fresh expression in your context. There will be three gatherings, each of which build on the last, with group coaching in-between:

 · Imagine Day: Casting a vision, with some nuts and bolts and a plan for next steps.

 · Activate Day: A deep dive in what to do, with interactive team exercises and processing your journey.

 · Multiply Day: Reverse mentorship, with local church fresh expressions teams relaying what they learned and receiving coaching.

 Sign up for Imagine Day on September 30—register here.  


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