I felt excluded at a women’s retreat … Here’s why

In March, I attended a Hispanic Weekend Spiritual Retreat for ladies and girls, ages 10 years and up, in my local church conference. The retreat was held in Cohutta Springs, Georgia. I traveled there with my mother, sisters, and other women from my parents’ church. 

I enjoyed the event.  However, throughout the weekend there was a constant stream of topics to which I could not relate. The irony is that it was supposed to be a  retreat for women of all ages. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

The first night’s meeting made me feel like an outsider.  It focused on married women with children and single mothers. There was a separate program for girls ages 10 through 17.

 Once the speaker began to speak about her intimate relationship with her husband, I felt awkward. Other women nodded their heads in agreement as she openly talked about healthy, loving marriages and ways to love and treat your husband, but I could not agree or relate.

My mom noticed a shift in my body language. “If you don’t feel comfortable being here, then how about you join the youth group,” she said.

I looked at her with an irritated facial expression.

I told my mom I am 21 years old and an adult. Simply not married and childless. For a retreat the marketed to all women, it just so happened that they forgot about my age group. When I expressed those sentiments to my mother and twin sister, they told me to take the information as advice for when I marry in the future.

According to the 2018 North American Adventist  Demographics Report, a study conducted by the Center for Creative Ministry and Commissioned by the NAD Office of Education, nearly four out of five adults in the Adventist population are married. But surveys of single adults among Adventists have reported that they often feel that congregations are dominated by married people and not very welcoming for singles.

“Over the last decade since the 2008 survey, the Adventist population has shifted even further away from single adults toward married individuals,” according to the study. “The percentage of divorced singles has not changed, but the percentages of primarily younger never-married singles and primarily older widowed singles have each dropped by roughly half. “

The demographic study suggests it could be an indication that Adventist congregations in North America are not improving their ability to connect with single adults and make them feel at home. It clearly states that there needs to be attention given to developing a more effective single’s ministries in the NAD.

I hope for the next Hispanic women’s retreat won’t overlook us single ladies; because although we are not in relationships or have children, we can still bring our flavor to the world.    

Listening to my Cuban grandmother wasn’t always easy. But I loved her.

Anaelys Trochez

When I think about the Seventh-day Adventist church, one of the most important people that comes to mind is my Cuban grandmother, Nancy Mestre. She inspired me to be a better Christian.

Every morning, mi Abuelita (Spanish for “my grandmother”) would always pray for anyone who crossed her path in life. I learned most of my beliefs and values from her.

But there were times I wish I didn’t listen. Abuelita and I had different views within the church. I was struggling to see God as a loving being. She had legalistic views  and I did not agree. As a result, it shaped my views (both negatively and positively) about being a part of a church.

Here’s a challenge: Think about the people you associate with in church. Are the majority of your friends outside or within your generation?

I asked that question of myself and realized that the majority of the people I spend time with at church are youth and young adult members of the church. I only spend time with the older generations when I have to — like in Sabbath morning church services and church board meetings.

I realized that I am not intentional about speaking with someone of a different age.

Why? Because of past negative conversations with older church members, their actions (or lack of), and personal stereotypes.

In the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, Clint Jenkins and A. Allan Martin published a dialogue called Engaging Adventist Millennials: A Church Embracing Relationships in the spring of 2014.

In this article, they reviewed a study completed in 2013 by the Barna Group to investigate how congregations can be more effective in maintaining engagement with those born between 1980 and 2000.

They surveyed Millennials who were (or had been) part of an Adventist congregation to understand their collective experiences and attitudes. The study details six perceptual grievances that Millennials tend to harbor against “the church” as a cultural institution. These grievances hold that the church is (1) intolerant of doubt, (2) elitist in its relationships, (3) anti-science in its beliefs, (4) overprotective of its members, (5) shallow in its teachings and (6) repressive of differences.

Jenkins and Martin noticed that maintaining engagement among young adults is through positive experiences and relationships with older Adventist members and church leadership. They realized that intergenerational relationships are vital and can be the reason Millennials stay or leave the church.

I found this to be true. A close friend of mine does not attend church because church members disliked her bold choice of hair color. Another young church member feels discouraged about planning programs to which only a few attend and some don’t show up at all.

I remember attending a church board meeting where older church members were reluctant to participate in youth group activities because they felt out of touch with our generation.

According to the study,  establishing supportive intergenerational relationships, expressing forgiveness and acceptance and sharing experiences might be ways to build a bridge between the generational gap within the church.

Mi Abuelita, my beloved grandmother,  passed away Jan 6th  of this year, just four days after my 21st birthday. As I reflect on our relationship, there were many times that I let our differences be an excuse for us not getting along.

I wish I understood sooner that we were both broken individuals trying to be a Christlike. I miss her smile and most of all, I miss her prayers for me. She would always pray for my studies and education. I am where I am because of her early morning prayers.

I challenge young people (myself included) to establish a friendship with someone outside their generational group. Talk, pray and support them whatever way you can.

If everyone at church looks the same, you might have a problem

By AnaelysTrochez

Americans tend to be homogeneous beings, clustered in like-communities within the broader culture. However, some experts argue that diverse congregations can benefit their communities.

The issue of church diversity is of particular concern to pastors in areas where the demographics are changing.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about half of the children under 10 in the United States are ethnic minorities, which raises challenges for churches in the future.

Some Protestant pastors are being intentional about multicultural pursuits, but the results have been mixed. 

In the fall of 2018,  LifeWay Research — a Nashville-based organization — surveyed 1,000 Protestant pastors about racial diversity in their congregations. Researchers then compared the results to a similar survey in 2013.

Here’s what they discovered.

A whopping 93 percent of the pastors s — 80 percent who strongly agreed –said they believed every church should strive to achieve racial diversity. Yet, 81 percent of pastors reported that their churches consisted predominantly of one racial or ethnic group. 

The 81 percent was down from 86 percent reported four years ago, according to information available on the Lifeway Research website. 

“Protestant churches are still mostly divided by race, but they’re heading in the right direction,” said the organization’s executive director, Scott McConnell, in an article posted on the web site. 

Here are some more interesting statistics reported by Lifeway:  

  • Pastors in the South (96 percent) were more likely than pastors inother regions to say churches should strive for diversity.

  • White pastors (94 percent) were more likely to agree with the statement than pastors from other ethnic backgrounds (86 percent).

  •  African-American (88 percent) were less likely than their white counterparts to say that congregations should strive for diversity.

Similarly, many church members appear to be uncomfortable with the push for diversity.  In the Lifeway Research survey,  53 percent of churchgoers disagreed with the  statement: “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.”  

Evangelical churchgoers (71 percent) were most likely to say their church is diverse enough. White churchgoers (37 percent) were least likely to say their church should become more diverse. African-Americans (51 percent) and Hispanic-Americans (47 percent) were more likely to say their church needs to be more diverse.

“Pastors want their congregations to be more diverse—because their communities are more diverse,” said McConnell, according to an article on the Lifeway website. “But people in the pews aren’t there yet. There are hard cultural divides to overcome.”

Anaelys Trochez – Seeking the American Dream

Hello, my name is Anaelys Trochez, and I am a second generation Seventh-day Adventist. I was born and raised in the beautiful Sunshine State and the city known as Miami, Florida. As a child, I grew up in a multicultural environment — different forms of life and cultures surrounding my life, especially at church. I belonged to a small Hispanic congregation, which was my first exposure to different cultures. 

My mother was born in Cuba but migrated to the United States as a one-year-old, and my father moved to the United States from Honduras as a grown adult.

I heard the many stories of the different homes my fellow church members left behind like Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. I always ponder why would someone abandon their home country and searched for a new one.

I found that although the journey from which we all come from maybe be different, the reason remains the same. Like my parents, the church members sought a new way of living and the American dream.

Although many had to leave their families behind, they created new ones within the church community. Ultimately, the freedom to worship drives us to share in fellowship.

As a mass communication major, I want to be able to tell the story of our church that unites us as a whole.

Although we are all different, we have a Creator who loves us the same.