Worship 'Regenerates' at Salem United

Anyone passing through Salem United Methodist last Saturday would have heard something a little unusual. No, it wasn’t a wedding-reception band – it was the sounds of a new service for 20-somethings.

Quentin Elsea became the director of Youth and Family Ministries for Selbyville’s Salem United Methodist Church in November of 2008.

“Primarily my position involves working with the youth group, which is anywhere from middle school through high school. But I also do work with college-age students and families with young children. So primarily from middle school up to 30-somethings is really my focus,” he explained.

Elsea graduated from the small, private Ohio Northern University in early 2008 and started looking for positions in the ministry.

“I did a lot of searching online and this one opened up. I applied, and the rest is history,” said Elsea. “When I first got here, I was really getting my feet wet with the youth group and feeling out the dynamics here.”

Elsea, an Ohio native, moved to the Bethany Beach area after being hired by Salem.

“I love it. It’s a lot like home. Where I’m from the landscape is very similar – agriculturally based, a lot forests and stuff like that. The one big difference, obviously, is the large body of water next to us. We don’t have anything that big in Ohio,” he noted.

As Elsea became more familiar with Salem and its community, he said he felt that the church was in need of something to keep it relevant to a younger congregation. To that end, “Regenerate,” an informal youth worship café, was formed.

“We really saw a need to provide a more contemporary worship at Salem,” he explained. “A lot of Salem’s worship services are very traditional, and we just saw a need for the youth and young adults, because so many of them are gravitating towards churches that do provide them more contemporary worship. So we just decided to get the ball rolling and start small.”

“Regenerate” is held on the second Saturday of each month at 7 p.m. in Salem Center, the church’s social hall.

“We meet there, as opposed to in the sanctuary, which is very Methodist, with the stained-glass windows, pulpits and pews. We normally set up some chairs, a few couches and some tables. It’s very relaxed in the sense that, it’s just kind of a ‘come as you are’ deal. No need to dress up. I usually wear jeans and a T-shirt. Really, no expectations. We just want people to come and feel welcome,” said Elsea.

“It’s open to anybody who wants to come,” he added. “Our target audience is younger, but anyone who wants to come is welcome. The doors are open even to people outside of the church.”

To help add to the café atmosphere, refreshments, such as coffee and hot chocolate, are usually provided.

The atmosphere of the worship service is not the only thing that has been tweaked to enhance the appeal. The worship itself is in a contemporary style, as opposed to that involving traditional hymns.

“Guitar and keyboard, that sort of thing,” Elsea noted. “Again, the message is very informal. I usually keep it within 15 minutes — just a short challenge, something for people to think about, something relevant, with issues today that affect families, like the economy or politics.”

“Regenerate” began its monthly meetings in October of this year and has so far held three worship services. Over that short period, Elsea has already noticed an increase in participation in the project.

“It’s just been growing,” he said. “We’ve started involving more families in the church who want to help. We have considered, as it grows and as there is more involvement, to increase the frequency.”

Elsea emphasized that the informal worship café is open to newcomers, whether they be members of the congregation or not.

“That was very intentional,” he said. “We wanted to make it very seeker-friendly. We believe we have something really great and we don’t want to push anyone away from that.

“Anyone is welcome to come.” Elsea emphasized, “This is a project that started from the ground up, and we’re really hoping it will help make our church more relevant to both the people in the church and to our community. That’s our focus. We want to keep reaching out and sharing the good news that we have to anyone who would want to hear it. That’s really what we’re about.”

Salem United Methodist Church is located at 29 Church Street in Selbyville. For more information call (302) 436-8412.