Sponsorship Highlight: Journey United Methodist Church
In a recent interview, Reverend George Ashford, Jr. and Kristina Baker of Journey United Methodist Church shared their experience working with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and why they feel it is vital for faith communities to be a part of the safe-sex conversation.
- Talk to me about the parent and teen-focused events you’ve hosted throughout the years.
“We’ve held several events within our church community. These events are for both teens and parents; we like to keep an open dialogue at our events, sometimes including panels or just doing solo discussions. We want to reach the teenagers within our church as well as the Northeast community,” Baker said.
“As we evolve our events we get a new set of teens each year. Our audience has mostly been teens that are already in our church, so we keep constant contact with them – even in bible study the conversation is going. We know there are teens we need to reach who don’t worship with us, but we make sure to foster an environment that is safe and authentic so that any teen who walks in can feel safe and be themselves,” Ashford said.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of having a safe space – doing it within the church walls, which is a different environment than where they might usually have these conversations – has really helped open the dialogue at a different level for our youth. 35 years ago when I was growing up we weren’t having these conversations in the church. It was ‘do as I say and do as I do.’ Losing that mentality and encouraging a non-condemning/non-judgmental space is critical to the success of our conversations,” Baker said.
- Why is it important for faith communities to be involved in teen pregnancy prevention?
“We’d rather them hear the truth here rather than on the streets. It’s great as a parent to know that my kid is coming up in a church where they get the right information and is proactively doing something about the issue. We used to be in a situation where it was taboo for people to have these conversations,” Baker said.
“The conversations don’t just happen at our events. We continue to build trust and safe spaces so that when they encounter a situation they know they can come to us regardless of whether we’re in an event or not,” Ashford said.
- How has collaborating with the Campaign helped you reach more people in your community?
“Church and community is one of our core platforms, so when we were able to as a church and denomination point to prevention, advocacy, and education it brought a lot of legitimacy and facts to stand and do it alongside the Campaign. The Campaign has helped us to convene and give a broader perspective and unified message, beyond the added credibility that the organization gives,” Ashford said.