Do We Need To Change How We Are Engaging Young Adults?
Ministry shouldn’t be defined by our age.
By Rev. Lauren Fuchs
For as long as I’ve been involved in ministry, the Church (big C) has tried to find new and exciting ways to connect with young adults. Usually you have to start by defining who is a young adult and automatically offend a large number of people who may self identify as a young adult but aren’t (at least by your ministry's definition.) The definition normally includes the age group of after college to somewhere around the age of 35. The church has historically kind of disconnected from this age group and vice versa. It’s a busy 10-15 years where people are trying to secure jobs and build both professional and personal relationships. I think the church's desire to include young adults is good and right, but sometimes it’s over-eagerness to include this generation and ends up excluding them the most. What happens at midnight on the eve of our 36th birthday? Young adult ministries have a built in deadline with nothing to follow, and that is why they don’t work.
The good news is that there is a solution. There is a place for this age-group in the church, and it’s not as complicated as starting a new ministry area. For some reason, the church has recently thought they needed to woo this age group with trivia nights at local bars, or bowling leagues. As long as the church tries to entertain a certain age group though, they’ll always lose. What this post-college, young adult group wants is to continue to refine who they are and whose they are. So what if the church learned to do this well? Integrating the young adult age group into already existing, proven for growth ministries in the church, alongside both seasoned adults and those on the cusp of this time in their life?
This means building intergenerational small groups where college students are sharing their thoughts with those past retirement as well as the other way around. Then there in the middle are these young adults, not only bridging the gap between the young and old, learning to lead while they themselves are being mentored in the next phase of their spiritual journey. This also gives individuals some freedom at the pace of their own spiritual journey - there isn’t a reason they need to feel like they have everything figured out by 35, because they likely don’t.
In the Bible, time and time again we are shocked by the things that people are asked to do, regardless of their age. By our standards, Mary was a shockingly young mother, and Sarah, an impossibly old one. Ministry shouldn’t be defined by our age. Chances are, some of these young adults your church is looking to involve, have incredible leadership skills that will elevate your church in ways you may not have thought of yet. This is the age group that is largely holding their churches together as they navigate moving towards online services and an online presence in a time of national crisis. Engaging young adults in ministry may mean being open to changing the way things have always been done. Young adults are already invested in the church, and if you can give them claim and opportunities for leadership, I think you’ll be delighted at where they may lead you.
By Rev. Lauren Fuchs
Lauren has served as Central’s Associate Pastor since 2017, when her husband and her moved to the area. Central was a church she admired and wanted to grow a ministry like. From afar, she learned the culture of Central through podcasts and social media, but never thought she would have the privilege of pastoring there.
Lauren studied at and received her MDIV from Asbury Theological Seminary, and she met her husband there, too. Dan is the pastor at The Plains United Methodist Church, and together we have 2 children Gideon (3) and their corona-baby Margot, who was born 2 weeks into the pandemic. Together as a family, they like to travel and spend time on the bike path with their golden-doodle, Nala.