Now I’m probably writing to the choir on this post, but I thought I would identify the top 10 things that every leader should know who is involved in or has a passion to reach 20 and 30 something’s. I have been active in young adult ministry over the past 5 years. Here are some of things I’ve learned and discovered while serving and leading young adults.
1. Your leadership style must be relational and authentic: Young adults will not follow a leader who is unrelational, distant or fake. Young adults can pick up on plastic Christian smiles and fakeness a hundred miles away. Remember, that is one of the major reasons why so many students leave church after they graduate from High School. As a leader, you must be able to lead and influence relationally; if not, then you’re in the wrong ministry.
2. When You Teach – Go Deep, Not Wide: Over the years, I’ve had so many young adults tell me how much they can’t stand superficial and fluffy teachings. I don’t really think that the previous generation of church leaders really quite understand how much young adults are crying out to be challenged by the scriptures. Fluffy and superficial teaching that makes your average Christian feel good about themself won’t cut it anymore. This generation is hungry to know the Bible in its fullest; not just nice motivational talks. That’s why more in-depth Bible study forums attract more than traditional weekend services. What is communicated and discussed in small group communities carries a lot more Bible weight and depth than a weekend service does from a 20-something’s perspective. (We’ll touch on this a little bit later…)
3. Be active in Innovation, Technology and Social Media: Every leader in young adult ministry must be able to leverage technology and social media as a tool for community and online ministry. Technology is a tool that helps create environments and experiences online and offline that can communicate the Gospel and your mission in relevant ways. I believe every leader that is influencing young adults should at minimum be on Facebook, Twitter and have a blog. Why? Because it will keep you connected with people as well as build more awareness about your mission, your community and your ministry. I love what Craig Groeschel always asks his Innovative Pastor, Bobby Gruenewald at LifeChurch.tv, “Bobby, what have we not done with technology yet that can help and impact other people and other churches for the Gospel?” Maybe you should ask the same kinds of questions to some of your young adults in your community? What has technology and social media not already done that we could develop to reach more people for Christ?
4. Build A Culture of Community: The DNA for most 20 and 30 something’s is to be a part of a culture that has a primary focus on community. I’ve discovered that 20-something’s need to feel that they are a part of a family and in a environment where their thoughts and ideas can be expressed and valued. I’ve learned that churches that don’t value or push to develop thriving small group communities, will never experience a major involvement of young adults in their church. Why? Because 20 and 30 something’s desire to grow in a community format, not just a weekend event format.
5. You Must Be Missional: For your church or ministry to attract and sustain young adults, you must carry a DNA that is missional. Why? The DNA of 20 and 30 something’s is to respond to the social problems of our culture around the world; for example: poverty, education, human trafficking, hunger, pandemic diseases, community development and the list could go on and on. Young Adults want to be part of a church and ministry that thinks outward more than it thinks inward. I am convinced that many Western-American churches are too focused on their weekly experience, instead of focusing on the people that have never heard the Gospel. And, that is why many young adults are leaving church. Not because they don’t love Jesus, they just want to be a part of something that is bigger than a Sunday service. They want to give their lives to a cause that is actually strengthening humanity.
6. Cultivate a Two-Way Conversation: For years we have been brought up in a church culture that says you come to church and listen while the preacher does all the talking. I believe those days are coming to an end. The Bible says in Romans 10:14, How will they hear without a preacher? So, I believe the preaching of the Gospel will never be done away with. However, how we do it will change. And, I believe it will change with the help of technology and creative discussion on how the preaching and teaching of the Gospel becomes a two-way conversation, instead of just a one-way dialog. Young Adults want to be part of a two-way conversation, where they become a part of the formation and developing process of how the Gospel is communicated to this generation.
7. More Ministry; Less Programming: For this generation, ministry opportunity will always trump organizational programming every time. Now understand what I say, organizational programming and structure has its place in the whole 360-degree picture. But sometimes this generation will view it as a threat that could limit or cap ministry opportunity. And, guess what, they’re right. My advice would be, if you are big on programming, then you might want to evaluate your calling in young adult ministry. Start out with a little programming with a wide space of ministry opportunity. Activate young adults in ministry, not in church programs.
8. Empower Your Core Influencers: In every young adult ministry team is a small handful of influencers that impacts the overall ministry. These influencers have a few things going for them among the other young adults in the ministry: 1. Relational Capital. 2. Charisma. 3. Trust. These influencers can be your greatest assets on your ministry team. Empower them to lead. Reproduce leaders. Reach out and disciple more young adults.
9. Coach this Generation in Practical Living: The church must provide coaching in practical living to this generation. So many 20-somethings don’t know how to put a resume together, manage a budget, or become financial stewards. I believe every young adult ministry within the local church must provide tools and personal training that can equip young adults to lead and flourish in their careers, finances, and relationships.
10. Everything Must Be About Jesus: Beyond all the cool environments, experiences, small group communities, events, missional outreaches, ministry opportunities, programming, technology, social media, team development, edgy buildings, etc…Everything you do for young adults must be about drawing them in to know Jesus more! Your ministry must carry a contagious passion and energy to spread and influence the love of Jesus Christ! That’s our cause, mission and reason for living. Everything else better come secondary, otherwise your young adult ministry will die quickly.