Tag Archives: young adults

Stop Doing Ministry To Young People

0020.community hand imageI don’t like having things done to me. Like my dentist who wants to drill into my teeth with the most annoying sounding drill ever created. Or my physio always wants to cause me pain, always assuring me that I will feel more sore tomorrow. And while we have high levels of appreciation for them, no one likes going to the hospital and having all sorts of things done to them by nurses and doctors. Having things done to you is generally not a positive experience.

I find it fascinating to hear so often that such and such a church has a ministry to youth and young adults. Or how I often hear people talk about the ministry they are involved in to young people.

While people may not mean much by this type of language, it is actually very telling. It shows that young people are not very important to you. This type of understanding and language actually communicates disconnection. It is something you do “to” them over “there” so you can come back over “here” and get on with your life or get on with the other ministry of the church.

It is a way of thinking that removes young people from where they should be in our lives and in our communities and puts them in a place where we can do things to them and then let them go. We can have a certain amount of detachment from them. We don’t have to get to involved in their life and things don’t get too messy. We have clear boundaries of when we invest and when we care and how much we expose ourselves to them, and when that time is up, we can go back to how we like it, where things are easy and safe.

If your church is doing ministry to young people, it could be possible that you are missing the point.

Wouldn’t it sound strange if we talked about Jesus doing ministry to his disciples. Or even talked about Jesus running a program to grow his disciples in their faith.

If Jesus ministered to his disciples the way that we do much of our ministry to young people, I’m not sure how long this whole Christian thing would have lasted.

What Jesus models to us (and even more powerfully, what God models to us in Jesus) is incarnation. A coming and being with. A taking up residence in our world and in our lives. A coming alongside of and living with. A oneness, a unity. It was messy and frustrating (Matt 15:16) and discouraging and exciting (Matt 11:4-6). But it birthed the kingdom of God in the disciples.

If you or your church wants to be most effective in ministry to young people, it does not need a program. It cannot afford to do ministry to them. What it needs is a willingness to open up the life of the church and the lives of the individuals in the church to the messiness that is young people.

If you’re a parent, you understand that having children around is messy and frustrating and exciting. That there are moments of despair and grief and moments of pride and joy. But you gladly go through it all because you want your children to thrive in life.

Our churches need to recapture the understanding that it is our responsibility to adopt the young people in our church into our spiritual families and live with all the mess that comes with this. Anything less is not true discipleship. It is about giving them space, and permission and a voice in our community just like we would our own children in our homes. It’s about nurturing their gifts and talents and potential and doing everything we can to help them succeed. It’s about sacrifice and laying down our life so that our children have the best chance of thriving in faith and life.

David Sawler in his book, ‘Before they say goodbye’, says

“A church will only experience long term growth when it lays down its life to reach, disciple, and parent its own young…. When it does what Jesus did for the disciples.”

Whatever opinions or arguments you have about how important the traditions and rituals in your church are, nothing can ever be more important than the young people in your church and in your community. This is your first and most important priority as a church. If we as a church can’t do this well, then I think there is not much else in the great commission we can do well either.

It is time for the faith of our young to become a focus of our communities. Does this mean we neglect the elderly and only do worship and sermons for kids, youth and young adults? No. It means that we understand that God’s church is best expressed as a family who loves and serves each other and invites each other into their lives as an act of discipleship. We grow an understanding that the prayer of a 6 year old boy is just as powerful and nourishing for the community as the prayer of the 60 year old elder.

This means as a church we equip the entire family to fulfil its mission to be the body of Christ. We call and equip those more mature in our community to live a life that does not do ministry to young people, that does not get involved in a program with young people. Instead we call and equip them to live lives that invite young people into their homes and their families and their joys and their struggles and their faith. That helps young people encounter the embodied and alive Christ in the lives of each other.

This is the type of life I believe Jesus called us to when he called us to make disciples. He called us into the mess of life, and he called us to invite others into that mess as well, so that we could see together all the strange and amazing and ordinary and joyful ways that he turns up every day.

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Confessions of a Former Church Cynic

Found THIS great article which i feel clearly represents some of the feeling of young adults regarding the church.  Some if this is backed up by the LYQ research as well. Key points are

  • We crave community
  • We desire wisdom
  • We seek resolve

Check it out.

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It’s not about the worship style… But it kinda is as well.

Let me say this clearly. It… is… not… about… the… worship style.

Part of my job is talking with people in churches about how to do effective ministry to young adults. In almost every conversation the assumption from the person I am talking with is that the main issue of why young adults are disengaging from church is because of the worship style.

If only it was that simple.

I would be delighted if all that we had to do as a church to keep our young people engaged in their faith and in our communities was to change a few of the songs and jazz up the liturgy a little. This would be easy. This would be simple compared to the true challenge that faces our faith communities in their struggle to stay relevant to young people.

The reality is much more complex.

Tom Rainer in his most recent podcast highlighted six keys for reaching millennials (young adults) that helps paint a more holistic picture of what is involved in effective ministry to young people.

Some highlights from the podcast include:

  • Anyone who is intentional about reaching others for Christ will reach more than those who are not. Intentionality is a must.
  • Churches need to understand that Millennials have different views than previous generations on social issues.
  • When Millennials look at a potential church, ministries and opportunities for their kids are major deciding factors.
  • If you want to reach a generation who cares about their children, the church must care about their children as well.
  • Millennials want to have intentional mentors to come along beside them.
  • Churches must offer Millennials opportunities to serve and to lead. Don’t make them “wait their turn.”
  • If your church is relying on the worship style or architecture to reach Millennials, you’re relying on the wrong thing.

 

The six keys for churches to reach Millennials are:

  1. Be intentional in engaging & understanding them

  2. Be authentic

  3. Offer ministries for their family and children

  4. Offer to mentor them

  5. Offer opportunities for them to serve and to lead

  6. Have a presence in the community

 

This shows us that what really needs to happen is not simply a change in style, but a change in attitude towards young people. Our churches can not afford to be an ‘old boys club’ where those with the most years experience get to make the decisions. Rather, they need to be a place where young people and what they bring (including their youthful optimism and naivety) is seen as a valuable gift of God to the life of the church. Where we celebrate the fact that children are present and noisy. Where we accept that they will often get things wrong and mess things up because we are simply delighted that they are involved in the life and practices of the church.

We need to be a place where we value the opinion and worldview and faith of a 6 year old, a 16 year old and a 26 year old as much as we do a 56 year old. Where we respect, value, seek to understand and celebrate the unique viewpoints and way of relating to God that each one brings.

Young adults are not looking for contemporary songs as much as they are looking for a place to serve where they can effect real change in your community, where their view actually counts for something.

I have often said, if you are not letting your young people do things in your church that upset you, you’re not letting them do enough. What I mean is that we need to give them permission to do things their way. To express their faith. And sometimes that will be something that makes us awkward or will be something we don’t agree with or think isn’t right…and this is OK.

This is how you will keep young adults in your community.

It’s not about worship styles… but then it also kind of is.

You see, if we have involved children and young people and young adults so much in our community, if we have given them responsibility and permission to effect real change, if we seek to serve and understand their faith as much as they seek to serve and understand ours, if we seek to communicate the gospel in an authentic way to their life stage and world view…

Then our worship will look different.

Not because we think this is what young adults want, but because we have integrated the place and influence of young people into our communities.

So next time you talk about how to keep young adults and young people engaged in your church community, please do not start by talking about worship style. It is not about worship style.  Please start somewhere deeper.

 

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Letters to the Exiles – Flow

It’s great to see how small group resources are maturing these days. long gone are videos of talking heads with an awkward backdrop. Christian film makers and creatives have matured and are creating some great content (at a decent price as well). the latest project from Flannel (of nooma fame), called Flow, is ideal for engaging young adults in conversations that they are having around faith, life and church.

Check out the preview video bellow and purchase the bundle for just over $20 on flannels website

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