I had the opportunity today to present at a Conference about Young Adult Ministry. I had no idea my job would take me in this direction. In fact, I don’t even think I knew Young Adult Ministry was a thing (probably because it’s unfortunately not in most places). In any case, our synodleaders told us that we are the church that’s currently doing the most with YA Ministry, so would we come lead a workshop about what works? My range of emotions in response to this were 1) elated and flattered, 2) sad that we’re apparently doing The Most, when we aren’t doing nearly as much as we’d like to, and 3) suddenly unsure of what IS working. After lots of thought and discussion with my incredible Young Adult Leadership Team, we created a list of 10 things that help YA Ministry “work.” I’m sharing this with you because I know some of my readers are exploring/discovering some of these same things…
I hope it’s helpful! (If you have comments/suggestions…feel free to write them at the end of the post…)
- The structures of the church support what we are doing: the senior pastor, the church staff, the church council, the elders of the congregation. They do not just “support” it as in, Oh that’s lovely that you all are getting together. They attend our events, they invite YAs out to coffee, they invite us to speak at the council meetings or from the pulpit. There is a very real and authentic interest from all parties. This is key.
- We have a staff person who commits part of their job to the YA ministry. This may not be possible for every church, but the point is that working with this takes time and dedication. And results may not be seen right away.
- Over time, we have been able to form a Young Adult Leadership Team that is comprised of young adults. It’s very important to have YAs leading this ministry (of course with guidance from older, wiser people!).
- A lot of churches try to approach YA Ministry lightly by first creating a friendly, fun, social environment, and then getting to bigger issues…like God. The fact is, God is THE issue…and does not have to be separated from fun! Instead of starting with fun, we try to start with God.
- We are working at being better Active Welcomers. There are YAs who note each Sunday morning if there’s a new YA, and they make sure to welcome that person and let them know what we have going on. Nothing creepy…just active (rather than passive) welcoming.
- If young adults won’t come to church, we have to meet YAs where they are. They are a lot of places, including online and in pop culture. We have to continue to stay aware of this. It is an evolving knowledge – you can’t just join Facebook and be done with it.
- Instead of starting with our own ideas of a good event and plugging YAs in, we try to start with the YAs. We do gift assessments. Who is good at what, and where might their gifts meet our needs? For example, because so many YAs at LP are physically active, we’re starting an Adventure Series. The bonus is this: It was simple to find people to lead this because that’s what they like to do!
- We try a lot of things. Some Synod Assembly mentioned that if you try 100 things, 90 of them will fail. But 10 will succeed, and it becomes worth it. Hopefully, as you examine what tends to succeed and what tends to fail (be conscious of this!), your rate of failing to succeeding will change. See? You thought I wasn’t listening at Synod Assembly, but I was…
- YAs love learning from people who are different from them. Efforts are continually made to group YAs and separate them from everyone else, when in fact, most YAs are craving intergenerational relationships. In fact, YAs are into interEVERYTHING. Intercongregational, interreligious, interethnic, you name it. Sameness is not nearly as interesting as discovering our differences.
- One-on-one relationship building has been perhaps the most important key. We don’t just assume what young adults would want to do. We ask them. And we don’t just tell them what they can do for us via attending our events and such. We make concerted efforts to see what we can do to support them in their everyday lives. Not because we have to, but because we want to.