A Young Adult Perspective on Young Adult Ministry

Our view of God is relative.
Our view of religion is skeptical.
Our view of commitment is wary.
Our view of reality is survivalist.
Our thinking is relational and feelings-oriented, not intellectual.
We live in the now; we can’t imagine eternity.
From “Getting Real: An Interactive Guide to Relational Ministry” by Ken Baugh.

You may be asking yourself, “What kind of thinking is that? How do I approach young adults who think totally differently than I do?”  I know that many adults wonder how to effectively minister to young adults like myself. We ARE different. Many of us DO think differently than our parents. But we are searching for a real, authentic Jesus, and there are many things that adults can do to reach us!

Today’s young adults are characterized as the generation of the “Xers”, ages 21 to 35. They are in transition between finishing college and “settling down”.  Many are struggling to discover what vocation is best for them and many aren’t even sure of what their next move will be. Some are married and/or have children, but the age for getting married and having children is increasing all the time. Most young adults are busy and active with limited time and many demands.

Additionally, young adults:

  • Are highly relational. Relationships are a high priority for us as we continue to define who we are in the world.
  • Have a passion for making a difference. We want to be involved in activities that we know will impact others.
  • Are experiential. We don’t want to just read about it or hear about it, we want to experience it.

Today’s young adults constitute one of the most unchurched age groups in America. They get lost between “graduating” from the youth program at their church and not being interested in or invited to the adult ministries of their church. And young adults veer from church life many times because they want to make decisions for themselves apart from the decisions their parents made for them. Besides all of that, more and more kids are coming from anti-Christian homes that refuse the “boundaries and rules” perceived to be attached to Christianity.

So, what can you do about it?

Taking what I know about young adults and what I know about myself as a young adult, I have come up with some ideas of how to reach out to this relational, experiential, active and transitional group.

Any effort to truly reach out to young adults should include:

  • God’s Word and Prayer (of course!)
  • Authentic Relationships
  • Experiential Opportunities
  • Meaningful Conversation
  • Fun
  • Flexibility and Spontaneity

How can you put this into practice?

1. Create opportunities where young adults can get together to learn about Jesus in a new way while building authentic relationships.

  • Small groups are an excellent way to incorporate many young adults’ needs into one.  Small groups provide opportunities for authentic relationships, possible meaningful conversation, hopefully some fun and the opportunity to get together for experiential activities (camping trip, night of fun on the town, mission trips, etc.)  And more importantly, young adults have the opportunity to sit down with a group of people to hear and talk about their life in Jesus in a new way.
  • Meeting at a coffeehouse once a week can offer a neutral ground (and many young adults love coffee houses). Have a few open-ended questions that the young adults could discuss with you. And listen, listen, listen. Bring your Bible and take some time to talk more in-depth about Bible verses that may apply to their life today.
  • Take a group of young adults out for a weekend event:
    A weekend retreat to a camp
    A backpacking trip
    A spa weekend for women
    A short-term mission trip for young adults

2. Incorporate young adults into worship, bible studies and other activities.

  • Make them an important part of worship life – music, audio-visual, the service.
  • Look for skills that your young adults have and find someone to connect them to that will benefit from their talents.
  • Ask them to lead a bible study for other young adults, youth or adults.
  • Connect them to your youth as mentors.
  • Put them in charge of a servant event – this will feed their desire to make a difference in an experiential way.

3. Connect young adults with spiritual mentors

  • One of the best things I have done as a young adult is to find for myself a mentor more mature than I in her faith walk. Instead of having your young adults do that work by themselves, connect your young adults with mentors from the congregation. A mentor needs to simply invite the young adult out for coffee or over to his or her house once a month, week, whatever. Then, just listen, talk about God’s word and encourage the young adult to keep walking on the road of life with Jesus.
  • One of the most important things that a mentor can do is to help the young adult establish and maintain a daily devotional life.  We all know that being in God’s word and in prayer is crucial for our faith; why not teach young adults to make devotional life an important part of their day?

Really, it all comes down to authentic relationships; these relationships are the key to getting into the world of young adults. Young adults want to know that Jesus is real, not just some guy that they heard about in Sunday School.  Many are waiting for an experience, a “road to Damascus, knock you on your behind” kind of experience.  They are skeptical and don’t want to be institutionalized.  When they come into relationship with a Christian person who is living out their life in Christ, who they see as a real person who is in relationship with a real Jesus, they will want to know more about what being a Christian is all about.  They will want to experience it for themselves.

Some good resources on young adults and young adult ministry:

  • Getting Real: An Interactive Guide to Relational Ministry, by Ken Baugh; Navpress, 2000.
  • Postmodern Youth Ministry, by Tony Jones; Zondervan Publishing House, 2001.
  • The Quest for Christ: Discipling Today’s Young Adults, by Ken Baugh and Rich Hurst; Group Publishing, 2002.
  • Youth Cells and Youth Ministry, by Brian Sauder and Sarah Mohler; House to House Publications, 2001.

Published August 1, 2004

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