Last week Leadership Network sponsored a forum for leaders of young adult ministries in multi-generational churches. We wanted to learn what’s new in established larger churches where young adult ministry is a vital and strategic emphasis. Leaders from 15 churches got together for a day of stimulating conversation. Definitions of “young adult” in these churches ranged from college age (a few) to post-college to somewhere in the 30s. For many churches it includes young marrieds, and for some young marrieds with children.
As always at our forums, sensitive and confidential statements stayed in the room. Here’s a snippet of the “public” topics participants discussed:
1. Teaching is welcome, especially if it’s participatory learning. As one participant affirmed, “Postmoderns need moments of participation to experience truth.”
2. Entry points to young adult ministry vary widely. One church does a monthly lunch gathering where young adults can meet the small groups leaders and get pulled into different groups; people invite their friends and it also gets announced in the services. Another church Tivo’s “The Office” and then invites the church’s young adults to stick around after a church service to watch it together while enjoying light food. Another church works social media that young adults use, such as Twitter and Facebook, which “has been a great entry point.”
3. The data churches track also varies widely as they monitor the health and growth of their ministry. Different churches may count the number of young adults in small groups, number of leaders leading groups, number of people serving and giving, and what percentage each week are newcomers.
4. Young adults aren’t likely to “graduate” from being postmodern in their thinking, eventually becoming modern. As one participant said, “This is not just a repackaging of the old. It’s vastly different the way they interact with the truth and with each other.”
5. Serving is the best common ground today for all ages. Service is a common point, even if each generation is motivated to serve for slightly different reasons. One person said, “When you give young adults a good cause, they will jump all over it.” Many churches intentionally connect older and younger generations through mentorship relationships, service projects together and other opportunities.
In all it was a great day around our circle (and we also wrote ideas on whiteboards, as pictured). As one participant said, “It’s been validating to see that the questions I’m asking are common ones, and that others also feel that these questions are important.”
Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation. Recent blog posts include: Questions Raised by Executive Pastors, Looking for Lean Staff Churches, Downtown Churches: How Visible?, What Is Your Church Learning about Outreach?, What Are the Most Urgent Questions Tomorrow’s Church Must Face?, Nigerian-Based Church Comes to North America and Today’s Co-Pastor: A Slightly Growing Trend.