Everyone seems to be talking about millennials, from how they vote to their work and their relationships. It’s a complex generation, and as they enter adulthood, many church leaders are considering how best to minister to young adults.
I led a young adults ministry at my church. I was told once our group was a chubby youth group – a group of people a little too old and a little too awkward to be meeting together like a high school youth group that never graduated. I’ve answered phone calls and emails where people ask me if their soul mate would be at the group.
It’s a tricky age group. They’ve (typically) already graduated from college, but there are some who are taking a gap year (or five). Some are in steady careers while others are still figuring out what they what to do. Some know who they are and what they believe, while others are far from it.
I understand it’s a difficult group for the church to reach. They’re not in college, but they’re usually not yet married. They could find community through service, and many do, but many want and need to learn with like-minded people in a similar season of life. They don’t want to be the only single person in a 20-somethings small group. It’s not their style to find connection at a women’s Bible study where you sit in a circle with nametags and share on cue, or get up crazy early on Tuesdays to eat donuts and drink coffee with older men.
It’s a socially diverse group. There are people who want leadership opportunities, mentorship, coaching, community, Bible study and growth. And there are people who just want to belong with a group of people.
Many churches see and appreciate the diversity and potential of this group by offering ministries, serving opportunities, internships and leadership experience. Other churches don’t have the capacity or resources to meet their needs through a specific ministry. Some churches have a ministry for young adults, but don’t have the vision to prioritize it.
Core things young adults need from church:
1. Love and Value
One of the ways we can love and serve young adults is by reflecting back to them their strengths, uniqueness and potential. We can show them we care and they matter without catering to comfort. Let’s move them toward the Church through love.
Pastor John Ortberg wrote, “The yearning to attach and connect, to love and be loved, is the fiercest longing of the soul. Our need for community with people and the God who made us is to the human spirit what food and air and water are to the human body.”
He goes on to write, “Neal Plantinga notes that the Hebrew prophets had a word for just this kind of connectedness of all things: shalom—’the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.'”
Youth ministry is sexy. We can get many cool people to help with the youth, but what about the slightly less sexy young adults ministry? Can we find quality people to invest in them? Not someone who just wants to hear themselves talk, teach and offer their ‘vast wisdom,’ but someone real and genuine. Let’s take it a step further and offer training for these leaders and find equipped people. Don’t give young adults your leftovers.
If your leaders have to scrap together resources and people, your young adults will know they’re not a priority. I’m not saying everyone should pump money into a young adults ministry. I’m saying show up, let yourself be known and know others. Young adults will respond when they know they matter and know you care. That’s why they’ll show up.