Q. It seems that many who attend church as children and teens drift away when they enter young adulthood. Many churches seem to find it difficult to minister to this age group. What can be done?
A. One of the most fulfilling ministry assignments I have experienced in the local church has been my involvement with the young men and women often referred to as "twentysomethings." I have found that they bring enthusiasm and energy to life and faith. Their optimistic perspective can help the local church to expand its vision and effectiveness in reaching the lost for Christ.
In my engagement with this group, I have attempted to incorporate the following eight practices. This has enabled our local church to tap into the tremendous resources and potential of these young leaders.
1. Extend a personal invitation for involvement.
A personal invitation for involvement sends the message that we have recognized a God-given strength that is needed and desired in the community. Invite them to be involved in some decision-making in the local church. Or provide opportunities to participate in leading worship through reading Scripture, praying, or music. Even if the invitation happens to be declined, we have demonstrated our belief and trust in them. This will not be forgotten.
Listening involves the setting aside of our personal agendas and priorities in "preferring another." For several weeks, I helped facilitate "listening conversations" with these young adults that allowed for free exchange and discussion about topics that should matter to believers. I found a willingness to listen broke down walls. The result was a higher degree of engagement and connectivity to the local church.
3. Be available to shepherd them.
As I began to invest myself in the lives of young adults, a hunger to learn and grow emerged from them. This led to a natural opportunity to serve as a shepherd, mentor, teacher, guide, and co-learner. Young adults in this stage are making critical decisions about life, marriage, career, and children, and are enthusiastic about learning from someone a few years further along in the journey. It is especially important to model Christlike living in our interactions with others.
4. Embrace their creativity and passion.
Perhaps what has worked in the past may not be what works today or in the days to come. Musical styles and preferences may differ. Non-traditional times and days may need to be considered for Sunday School and discipleship opportunities. We need not compromise our core values or mission to embrace creative ideas and strategies built upon these young believers' passionate faith and love for Christ.
5. Love them.
It will be very clear to this group if our love for them is authentic. If we actively demonstrate love in our relationships with twentysomethings, they'll react in kind.
I feel a very deep personal debt of gratitude, respect, and appreciation for those in the church who trusted me and those of my generation to carry forward the message and mission of the Church of the Nazarene. I believe God has raised many young leaders in our local churches who need and desire our blessing and trust to continue to carry forward the message and mission of the Church. Their methods may differ and central truths may be repackaged in a manner to which their generation may better connect.
6. Pray for them and with them.
I have found that the foundation of my relationship with young people is the times of prayer we have together. We regularly thank God for the "good stuff" of life. We also seek His guidance and grace in the "tough stuff."
We have been blessed with the privilege of demonstrating to our twentysomethings that we trust them. I believe we can trust them to seek the mind and heart of God, to embrace holiness of heart and life, and to carry forward the message of Jesus to our world.
8. Seriously address social issues that concern this group.
Don't shy away from difficult questions, but be willing to acknowledge their validity. It is important to define "holiness" in a culturally relevant way that they can embrace and understand.
Raymond Moore is an ordained elder and lead facilitator of the Koinonia Class at Lenexa, Kansas, Central Church of the Nazarene. The class is comprised of around 60 young adults, most of whom are in their 20s.
Holiness Today, May/June 2010