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Reaching out to younger minds
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When the Rev. Brian Dale and the rest of the members of Allen Memorial United Methodist Church decided to create the Allen Alive Sunday night service, they knew they wanted something different to draw in a younger crowd.

"The Allen Alive service is designed to open up the truth of the gospel to the next generation," Dale said.

Dale said his generation received the word from written and oral words, but spreading the word to younger people required more imagination.

"The next generation is more keyed in on visual and musical messages," Dale said. "Folks nowadays are more likely to watch or listen than they are to read a book. The gospel is good news to every generation, but not every generation hears it from the same source."

In the Allen Alive service, Dale does not stand behind a pulpit, but instead stands closer to the congregation for a more personal message. Instead of using written notes to prepare for his sermon, Dale is able to glance at bullet points on PowerPoint slides projected onto a large wall mounted screen.

Neither hymnals nor Bibles are used during the Allen Alive service. The songs being sung and the Bible versus being discussed are also projected onto the screen.

Like most church services, live and recorded music is played at certain points during the service, but the music at Allen Alive has a more modern tempo. Some of the songs are from contemporary Christian rock, while others are modern takes on classics like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

Three weeks ago, local artist Brian David and the Plain Spoken Folk preformed during the first Allen Alive service. Dale said other churches have been helpful, providing support and bands to play at the services.

Members of the church also perform during the service, Dale said, but instead of the normal organ music, the musicians play on an electric keyboard, drums, a guitar, a bass and tambourines.

"The older folks have been very supportive," Dale said. "These services aren't aimed at them, but they are very exited to bring in a new generation. They're hungry to share Jesus with other folks."

So far, Dale has been very pleased with the turnout for Allen Alive. For the first service, 43 people attended, many of whom were Oxford College of Emory University students and young families. Dale said the church has sent out e-mails to Oxford students and has received great word of mouth from the 12 to 20 students who currently attend regular Sunday services.

Those same students put on their own Sunday morning service a few weeks ago. Students danced, played jazz and classical piano and preached during the service.

"As an aging congregation, we sometimes lack the energy or skills needed," Dale said. "Their hearts are in the right place, but sometimes all they can give is money when what we really need is their time. That's why what I want to do is to draw more younger families into the congregation."

Dale will finish the third and final part of an ongoing sermon titled "Butterflies" this Sunday at 6 p.m.