One Navigator’s quest to connect with young adults in Minnesota ended up answering a prayer for a 22-year-old living in the Twin Cities.
“I was praying to find a group of friends my age,” says Emily Ganser, who moved to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in August 2014. “There just wasn’t anyone that I really clicked with.”
It wasn’t until January that Emily met the Nav20s city leader of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Alec Glass, and learned about his new Happy Hour outreach.
Alec and his five-person staff team first talked about having a brunch ministry, but later decided that the professional, millennial crowd he was hoping to reach would be more open to a relaxed setting in the late afternoon. Alec targeted meeting places that featured a “Happy Hour” with discounted food and drinks.
He says the outreach provides a regular chance to connect for the young adults who no longer have the closeness of college dorm life for convenient connections. Alec compares the outreach to investigative Bible studies offered on campuses across the country by the Collegiate Navs ministry.
“You have to meet them on their own turf,” Alec says, noting that Christ met people where they lived and hung out.
Alec points to Matthew 9, which says,
And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:11-13 ESV).
According to Emily, the restaurants where the Happy Hour meetings are held provide a more relaxed atmosphere with less pressure than attending Bible studies at someone’s home.
“It’s super chill and super low-key,” she says.
The monthly meetings begin with appetizers and drinks, but always transition to deep conversations about life and Scripture, something that Emily says wouldn’t be as meaningful in a less relaxed setting.
“I’ve gotten a lot out of them and I think other people have as well,” Emily says. “It’s much more raw and fresh. They’ve sparked conversations, bringing out different views and perspectives.”
Some of those “differing views” surround the presence of alcohol at Happy Hour gatherings. According to Alec, about half of those who attend choose to drink alcohol during the meetings. He says they have discussed potential pitfalls of alcohol abuse on multiple occasions.
“It does come up at times, in the context of the discussion,” Alec says, noting that he reminds people, who choose to drink, of the apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33). “I would ask, and encourage others to ask, ‘Is it helpful?’ and ‘Am I enslaved by it?’”
From Emily’s first Happy Hour in January, her prayers for connection have been granted. At that meeting, Emily met a woman she says has become a close friend in just a few months.
“We clicked right away,” she says.
Alec started this monthly, nomadic ministry in the fall of 2014. He says he wasn’t sure initially if his after-work outreach would be fruitful, but realized its value by the end of the year.
Each month, the Happy Hour attracts 10 to 15 young adults who are looking for more than just superficial relationships. Alec says the strong turnout and stories like Emily’s have inspired his team to keep meeting.
Alec’s Nav20s ministry is centered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but he says there are young adults throughout Minnesota and the outlying region that connect with him and his team. He hopes the idea of the Happy Hour spreads to 20s groups throughout the area.
As for spreading the word about Happy Hour, Alec will only have to look as far as people like Emily. She is sold on it. Emily says the “real-life things” they discuss and the social component of Happy Hour have made the meetings a priority in her life.
“For me it really is an answer to prayer,” Emily says. “I do have friends now, and they’re really awesome.”