Are You Failing Your Young Adult Ministry?
My background is college and young adult ministry. In my opinion, this age group is the most innovative and creative conglomeration of world changers. As the College Administrator at Antioch Community Church in Norman, OK, I observed a special grace on college students and young professionals to start movements, dream beyond the cubical walls, and believe that anything is possible.
The college graduation experience can be an emotional mountaintop full of great expectations. However, the transition into young professionalism can be sobering, humbling, and often dark for 20-somethings.
How can we help the 20-somethings of our congregations thrive during this pivotal season of development and transition? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Encourage Getting a Job: I have often heard the 20s referred to as "the training and development years." Forbes recently published an article that expounds upon the benefits of entering the workforce at a younger age as opposed to taking ten years to find yourself. The journalist suggests that those in their early twenties should enter the workforce at any level, no matter if they “love it,” because of the benefits of learning and development that come during these final stages of our brain’s formative years. If you need a biblical character example, see Joseph, whom I see as the Old Testament Executive Pastor equivalent. I’m so thankful I didn’t go through his entry-level process, but when I look at his story, I see the value of small beginnings and where that training equipped him. His years of development were essential.
2. Caution: This point is entirely my opinion, but I recommend removing “Single” from your ministry’s title. Young Adults do want community but not a re-cap of their college years. As an unmarried, when I see a church that has “Single Ministry” in their title, no matter how great the program is, it initially makes me want to RUN. "Single Ministry" brings to my mind images of awkward mixers where I’ll be asked to babysit later on. For young marrieds, I’ve observed that life on a social level isn’t that much different until children enter the scene. I think there is something to learn from blending young marrieds and single adults. This fresh mix offers your congregation the opportunity to make deep connections across the board as opposed to one group that you eventually graduate from upon marriage.
3. Offer Job Seeker Groups: Finding a job can be a place of heaviness in our lives. The Church can be a source of relief for all age groups in this time of transition and these years of development. For example, we could facilitate job fairs with local agencies, offer support groups, and résumé classes. At my parent’s local congregation, a member started his own “Job Seekers” class once a month because he saw a need, and his skills allowed him to serve the body through career consulting and résumé review. If our team can be of help to your church in learning how to encourage those in the job search, we'd be happy to help.
4. Give Grace and Encourage Humility: These years of development are ultimately shaping our character rather than our résumé, if submitted to completion. Give grace to our young adults who fall hard off the high mountaintop of saving all the orphans in Africa into the valley of reality, facing college loans and their childhood bedroom. Offer truths that you’ve learned over the years of the faithfulness of God and most importantly, model humility. Yes, transition no matter where you are in life is challenging, but if there is the foundation of a humble heart before the Lord and towards one another, we’re set up for success. When I think about Joseph and his character development, I often wonder what would have happened if he resisted each stage along the way? Would he have made it? If he did, would his response to his brothers be the same when they came to retrieve grain? I don't know, but I see beauty in the process. Help your twenty-somethings see the value of the process.
Like Joseph, what did you experience in your young adult years that prepared you for what you're facing today? Have you found a niché in your congregation to serve your twenty-somethings? I'd love to hear your thoughts!