The church spends much time and effort lamenting that young adults aren’t coming to church and talking amongst itself about what to do about it. The church says it wants young adults to be a part of the life of the church, but many aren’t quite sure where to begin.
As with anything we do as a church, begin with relationship.
If you want to grow any ministry within your church, you start by building relationships, talking with the people you are feeling called to serve in a particular way, finding out what they desire and what they have to give, and learning more about them as children of God. Jesus showed us this time and again as he built relationships with the disciples and with those around him.
Ministry does not begin with a program or a curriculum or the newest tech. Ministry begins with relationship. It begins by getting to know the person in front of you and who God is in their life. It begins by praying together, spending time with God together, and wondering about where God is calling you further into the Gospels and into discipleship.
“If we lose a generation of young people in the church, it won’t be because we didn’t entertain them. It will be because we didn’t dare to do something meaningful with the Gospel in light of the world we live in.” – Shane Claiborne
As a church, we have to stop crying and start building relationships. Build the relationships and listen to what they are yearning for, what they desire to offer, and what you might create together. Below are some thoughts about where you might start. Keep in mind that young adults do not have disposable income, so find ways to fund the ministries and engage in events that are free!
Build Relationships with and among Young Adults
- Recognize and invite young adults to connect and build relationships with one another and with people from the church.
- Offer one-off or annual invitations based on young adult interests, community events/context, etc.
- Fit events into a larger ministry context. There needs to be a “why” beyond “because it’s nice”.
Build Spiritual Growth and Leadership with Young Adults
- Create small group opportunities and experiences that can be touchstones in the midst of life’s busy and bustle
- Disciple persons new to the tradition. Be mindful that they are coming for relationships first and tradition second.
- Create opportunities for young adults to know their strengths and grow where they feel God calling them.
- Worship and pray together, inviting young adults to create and lead the liturgies.
- Find ways to intentionally carve out space in the life of the church where young adults can play a central role.
- Work to create the culture of welcoming a diversity of gifts instead of slotting young adults into “traditional roles” like helping with youth or yardwork.
- Build capacity within the church around what elders can do (mentor, listen, chat) as opposed to focusing on generation gaps.
Serve the community
- Identify your community’s gifts first to see what you have to offer. Then, through investigation and conversation, discern some places where your gifts might meet needs in the community.
- Utilize both programs and campaigns in the ways that you engage with the community. Invite folks in and send folks out.
- Invite young adult leaders and community members to meet church neighbors, asking the question, “What can we do to bless the neighborhood our church lives in?”
Have Fun Together
- Find ways to have fun together! Go to the movies, enjoy dinner, play mini golf, go to concerts, attend a play, or gather for a game night.
Adapted from 30 Ideas for Young Adult Ministry written by The Rev. Mary Cat Young, Mr. Steve Mullaney, and The Rev. Shannon Kelly