The Young Adult Ministry That Could

I have to be honest. Since writing an article on young adult ministry last summer, our young adult ministry program has actually decreased in size. That’s right, decreased. Our young adult ministry had failed. One day we had a “ministry,” and the next we had four people sitting at Starbucks trying to think of a good excuse why they couldn’t come to Bible study next week. It was a rather humbling experience. Granted, some of you reading this may be thinking that you would love to have four young adults engaged in Bible study! Please don’t take offense. However, in our case, we have close to 75 people in the 19-29 age group who are not active in our church. For me, that is a point of concern.

So why am I writing another article? Probably for the same reason you are reading this: There is just not that much information out there regarding young adult ministry. More importantly, I believe you can learn from our mistakes. I am also banking on the fact that every one of you reading this has failed at something in ministry, in which case we all have something in common: We all must rely on God’s power for our strength in ministry!

This is especially true in young adult ministry. Twenty-somethings are the most un-churched demographic in America with only 38% regularly attending church services. Therefore, prayer must be the number one priority for anyone attempting to develop this ministry (John 14:13-15). Doing so also takes patience and persistence. Ministry doesn’t develop overnight, and it doesn’t develop by our strength. While we certainly all have gifts and abilities that contribute to our “success,” ultimately we must rely on the Spirit’s prodding and pushing for our programs to grow. This may be more true for young adult ministry than any other program in the church! So take courage. If you have attempted to begin a young adult ministry in your congregation and it did not go as planned, I pray these words will serve as encouragement to evaluate and take a fresh approach. Or, if you simply have such programming on your “to do” list but don’t know where to start, I pray that this article will be a jump start in the right direction. Whatever the case, know that God’s grace applies to you and what you may perceive as “failing” may just be God’s way of shaping you for service.

I have had such “failing” time and time again in my own ministry. It happened to my young adult program. But, after some praying and re-thinking, our small young adult group is beginning to grow again. And while every week is hit or miss, (we could have ten or we could have two), it is great to see God working through these group of young adults. Some day, I envision this group flourishing. What I learned from my previous mistakes is that such flourishing has more to do with God than it does with me–and thank God for that!

Things I Learned along the way:

1. Pray: For strong leaders, places to meet, activities, etc.

2. Avoid the words “Bible” and “study”: We sent a letter out to 75 twentysomethings advertising a Bible Study and got zero responses. Not even one! We found that young adults were more interested in simply hanging out together. For starters, instead of Bible study, try bowling, kickball (yeskickball), dodge-ball, hiking, or try a new restaurant, coffee house, or local pub. Once the group is established and friendships are formed, adding a spiritual element is a lot easier.

3. Pick a consistent date: At first, we attempted to pick dates that worked for the greatest amount of people. What happened was that it was so sporadic, the leaders couldn’t even keep up! Now, we pick two days a month to meet regularly, and if there are any special events (concerts, retreats, etc.) we put them on the calendar at least three months in advance.

4. Understand your audience. Even if you are twenty or older, familiarize yourself with the current cultural needs of young adults. I recommend reading Twenty Something by Margaret Feinberg (W Publishing Group, 2004) for starters.

5. Build Relationships: I believe this should be the first goal for any young adult ministry program. If your ultimate goal is to reach this age group for Christ, building relationships is key. Because many young adults are skeptical of the church, or don’t see a need for it in their busy lives, we have a great opportunity to reveal Christ to them through our friendship.

Things that have worked:

1. Movie night

a. Movies that provoke discussion

i. Hotel Rawanda (blessings, social responsibility)

ii. Schindler’s List (social responsibility, compassion)

iii. Hitch (relationships)

iv. The Gladiator (Guys night Out)

v. The Wedding Planner (Girls Night Out)

2. Sporting Events

3. Comedy Clubs

4. Coffee shop

5. Bar hopping

6. Camping Trip

7. Mission Trip

8. Joining city leagues (softball, kickball, dodge-ball, etc.)

Resources: — Resources, Bible studies, etc A “Flourishing” Young Adult Ministry

thESource is published on the Web by LCMS District and Congregational Services–Youth Ministry. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295; 1-800-248-1930; Editor: Gretchen M. Jameson; Assistant Editor: Dawn Cornelius-Gaunt; Layout: Gretchen M. Jameson. VOL. 2 NO. 8 June 2005.

Published June 1, 2005

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