I’m working on several projects right now that have to do with ministry with young adults/college students. Earlier this week I posted this question on Twitter and Facebook:
What is 1 thing that the church can DO/BE to reach out to young adults?
I was very pleased with the response that I got from a variety of different people who range from age 19-late 30’s. I’ve edited their responses only for clarity. Here is what young adults say to the church in their own words…
- DO: Take care of children well. BE: Authentic instead of showy.
- Young adults want community and a vision of God’s Kingdom changing the world now, not just in eternity.
- Don’t meet at churches for small groups. Create programming that does not require young adults/college students to be Christians already or intense Biblical knowledge otherwise they may not want to attend. Be open minded to all different types of people & not judgmental of the way the dress, live, etc.
- Get them out to fun events in the community.
- Ask what they want to learn from a program/small group. Rarely ever are we asked what we want to learn about or any questions about the church/faith.
- Um… food… lots of food 😛
- Ask them what they want! Then be willing to throw away your own entrenched ideas to make a place where they will want to come and worship. Meet at non-traditional times and places, because we all know God is not only present in church buildings. If you sincerely show them you want to meet their needs, I think they will get enthused and be active.
- I think community and receptiveness is key to reaching out to young adults. Community can definitely happen through small groups. Small groups need to be about community through bible study and prayer, but they also need to be about fun and fellowship too. I also think they need dedicated adult leaders and a church body who wants to see the young adult population grow. As far as receptiveness goes, young adults need to be heard. They have a lot of ideas and need to be told that it’s okay to speak up. Then, when they do, their ideas need to be seen as important as everyone else’s.
- Be real with them. Young adults can see through facades very easily!
- I work in a congregation of over 200 where the median age is 29. We have small groups that meet at the church and outside the church, but more importantly across the board there is the repeated message that people can come where they are – questioning, confident, searching, skeptical – whatever. All are welcome and to question is not a bad thing.
- Be authentic.
- I think all you really have to do is something different. Don’t do small groups at a church. Hold it at a hot spot… maybe a park or inside a restaurant. It’s more expensive but it’s not the same old boring thing and it intrigues them to actually come out and do it. Think of a youth group format. You usually have an activity and then a sermon. Take the activity to the next level. And rather than having a sermon, do a discussion table. Young adults get lectured at enough. It gets boring. Let them have just an equal of a voice as the leader. Oh and don’t do it in the morning…and weekend nights are packed too. I would suggest like a Saturday lunch or early dinner time.
- Talk about the hot topics of today – for singles as well as married persons. My Sunday School class doesn’t want to do a traditional Bible study for the summer, so this week I’m bringing my People magazine with a dozen questions regarding current day situations.
- Well, my church has only been a church since September and we have drawn young adults out of the woodwork. For us, it has been very important to be real…casual, relevant, and challenging during worship services. Then, life groups meet in homes and are the heartbeat of the church. Everyone who goes is encouraged to volunteer with something…from parking lots to worship band.
- Walk the walk. Get rid of the gimmicks and simply walk the walk. Outreach. Get involved. Do. Walk the walk.
Since I work with college students every day, I wasn’t surprised by the desire for connection, for a faith that is sturdy enough to carry them through hard times, and one that even requires something of them. May we, as the church, be willing to listen–to the Holy Spirit, and to the young adults in our midst–to show them that there is a satisfying answer in the person and work of Jesus.
It is encouraging to see young Christian leaders seeking ways to introduce Christ to young people and engage them in a relationship with Him.
it's interesting how several times in the comments we see meet somewhere other than the church. there's a lot of message in that suggestion– just not sure what it all is. neutral turf? stop associating the church with a building? looking for more social-personal space which is less threatening (i.e. starbucks), or ????
JD–those are interesting possibilities for getting outside of the 4 walls of the church, but I think that it is a way of authenticating whether or not the message is "for real." It's one thing for someone to say "Christian" things in a church, another entirely different thing when I'm invited into someone's home, or we meet in "public."