It’s a Thursday evening under the wooden pavilion at Clearview United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. The pleasant scents of food cooking on the grill fill the cool December air.
Hungry, masked faces make their way toward the table, and people young and old sit on wooden pallets and folding chairs before a movie screen.
It’s the weekly family movie night and cookout the Clearview congregation launched in September.
“COVID is a strange time to start any in-person event,” said the Rev. Keri LaBrant, who ended her appointment as pastor at the Clearview church Jan. 3. “But kind of our take was we can gather outside safely, we can do this food piece and serve food safely, we can do these things and still be meeting a need for people to gather and be outside and meet people in their neighborhood.”
The weekly event has been an important outreach to welcome the community to the life of the church.
Now, with the support of a $12,050 grant from the foundation’s Future Generations Fund, the church will be able to welcome more new faces with a youth ministry serving the Lealman community in Pinellas County — an area with a significant need for faith-based ministry for teenage youth.
“The vision would be we are able to develop a safe, honest, faith-based, faith-filled space where teens — six through 12th grade — can grow in relationship with God and each other,” LaBrant said.
Together to serve
Funds for the Future Generations Fund grants come from the foundation’s surplus revenue and donations from individuals. Since 2016, the fund has awarded more than $200,000 to ministries committed to spiritual formation and leadership development for children and young people from birth to 30 years old.
During the 2020 cycle that ended in December, grants totaling $66,200 were given to six recipients.
Funded projects, often entrepreneurial in nature, serve children and youth in summer camps, mission and outreach initiatives, local church ministry projects and campus ministries.
Clearview’s new ministry will focus on the spiritual growth of youth living in Lealman, an area that lacks faith-based programming for the demographic, LaBrant says.
“They deserve excellence in knowing who God is and how God meets them in their day-to-day lives. That’s what we want to give them. That’s what we want to open the door for and facilitate,” she said. “Not for the sake of Clearview, not for the sake of the UMC, but for the sake of God’s Kingdom and for the sake of the neighborhood.”
The grant the church received will partially fund a new staff member to help lead the ministry. And because Clearview is a small congregation, the ministry will also collaborate with the Young Life chapter in St. Petersburg, which will provide additional funding, resources, expertise and leadership.
While Young Life excels in relationally driven ministry that links young people with mentors, Clearview can offer gathering space, volunteers and funding to make the partnership successful.
“Whether we could move forward was kind of contingent on the grant,” LaBrant said. “So now we’re trying to move the other pieces forward.”
Keeping ministries in motion
Across the bay, Shiree Fetterly is working hard to support ministries for young people and community outreach at Seminole Heights United Methodist Church.
Fetterly is a Global Mission Fellow with The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries. She’s serving her two-year term at the Seminole Heights church.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fetterly was able to make the move from her home in Port Huron, Michigan, to Tampa in August, albeit with two weeks in quarantine before getting started as a safety measure.
In her full-time appointment as children and youth ministries assistant, she is producing weekly children’s chapel videos and overseeing children’s Sunday school, which has been operating under limited capacity. She leads volunteers at sites around Tampa, and on Tuesdays, she connects with youth on Zoom.
“Part of the position is also the community outreach piece,” said the Rev. Tiffania Icaza Willets, the church’s pastor. “Shiree is also our point person working with different school partners, working with different nonprofits in the area, making sure our church is already engaged with what is going on.”
Fetterly is strengthening connections with the local elementary and middle schools by coordinating back-to-school drives, assistance for families in need, funding projects and resource sharing. She is also supporting the church’s relationship with the area’s Metropolitan Ministries.
A $20,000 Future Generations Fund grant is supporting Fetterly’s stipend as a Global Mission Fellow and helping keep the ministries in motion, while Global Ministries provides her housing and benefits through the length of her term.
The goal is to keep growing the children’s and youth ministries so the church can afford to have a part- or full-time position of its own.
“They deserve excellence in knowing who God is and how God meets them in their day-to-day lives.” — Rev. Keri LeBrant, Clearview United Methodist Church
For now, the ministry needs of children and youth in the Seminole Heights community are being met, and the church is in tune with community partners in Tampa. The journey is also allowing Fetterly to explore her call to ministry and future service.
“That’s definitely part of her time here, is kind of seeing where she sees her gifts and where she sees her passions and where God is leading her into the future,” Icaza Willets said.
Applications for Future Generations Fund grants are accepted Sept. 1-30 annually, with grants distributed on or around Dec. 1. Programs may apply only once, and priority will be given to new, emerging and innovative ministries that have the potential to reach new young people at the local church, agency, related institution or conference level. Amounts per grant will not exceed $25,000.
Additional 2020 grant recipients include:
- Youth Center/After-school Program at St. John United Methodist Church in Ft. Lauderdale ($12,500)
- Family Ministries Initiative at First United Methodist Church in Sanford ($10,650)
- Helpers > Leaders at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Ocala ($5,000)
- Youth Summer Camp at Tamiami United Methodist Church in Miami (contingent upon COVID-19 safety measures) ($6,000)
Individuals may donate to the Future Generations Fund online.