Tuesday, March 18, 2014

3 Key Elements for Young Adult Ministry

For the past year, my church has been taking a deep look at the way we do ministry to young adults. Helping young adults connect with the church body is an ongoing dilemma, one that doesn't have easy answers. With the onset of emerging adulthood, young adults ministry is strongly connected to youth ministry, yet has to remain distinct if we want to see emerging adults fully transition into adulthood.

The present solution I've seen for many churches is, "create a really attractive college group program." This draws in plenty of young adults from all around, who are thirsty for a place to gather and belong. Yet after many of these programs explode in numbers, they begin to dissipate as the young adults in the program get older and feel like they don't fit with all the incoming college students. Essentially, these programs only delayed the drop-off that occurs post-high school by a few years; the young adults were still connected to a program, not a community of believers as the church.

In this season of questioning and dreaming and evaluating and praying, I'm hoping that we can create a church culture--not just a college program--that allows for young adults to grow and thrive in their spiritual journey. Beyond a program or a college group gathering, I've tried to boil it down to what young adults really need. I don't have all the answers, but here's what I've got so far:

Three elements every young adult needs in a church:

1. Mentoring: Every young adult needs a sounding-board and spiritual guide. Mentors are wise and Christ-following adults who meet young adults where they're at and walk with them further towards the person of Jesus. This requires pacing-then-leading, being with and for a young adult.

2. Community: Every young adult needs a sense of belonging and connection with peers. Community is best found in smaller groups, where a young adult can connect in a deeper way with people who are striving to love, learn from, and become like Jesus. Finding community requires fostering environments of belonging for young adults, both in the church services and in small group contexts.

3. Serving: Every young adult needs to steward their gifts for kingdom purposes. Serving requires getting our hands dirty and entering into the mess of life with a team of other people; whether in the walls of a church building or out in our neighbourhoods, serving others is vital to putting faith into practice for young adults.

If every emerging adult in the church had an older mentor discipling them, was connected to a group of Jesus-following friends, and had a place to actively serve others, I'd count that as success. 

Which element resonates with you most? What would you change or add to the list?


  1. I would want to add that the Sunday morning sermon must include relevant application points to their life stage. Application points can't always be directed towards a married person or family... They need to hear the word of God applied directly to their lives.

  2. 2 things...

    1) I think that young people need to learn how to hear and trust God's voice on their own. This is the stage of life where kids are pulling away from parents and making life choices by themselves, and doing so without that still small voice in the background is dangerous. I think that youth ministry can provide a context to practice sharing what they hear from God (1 tim 4:15 says we can practice in public). That experience and confidence is life-changing.

    2)I think mentoring should go far beyond spiritual stuff. Older people have wisdom that can and should be passed on to younger people about finance, real estate, choosing a career, starting a business, dealing with others and yes, spirituality. Its in the context of life that spirituality makes the most sense and impact. Sikh youth can get no-interest business loans from their temples if they will commit to meeting weekly with a business mentor... the end result is a successful tithing business, life-long connections between age groups and a commitment to their temple. Imagine if they had all that, and Jesus.