James Julien, Indianapolis, IN – Young people of this age group are in a pivotal time in their lives, and it’s necessary for the church to be intentional about ministering to them. We cannot assume they will just stick around, so it’s vital to connect with them on a personal level. Building a relationship with them paves the way for creating a safe environment where open and honest discussions can be had. Spend the time and talk about the difficulties they face. A small group setting is a good way to cultivate active discussions and biblical application to their lives. Equally vital is creating a worship environment where they can truly connect to God with songs of their generation. The key? Be intentional.
Stan Gleason, Kansas City, MO – This is a disciple-making issue. The church staff often provides good programs and activities but these alone do not produce spiritual maturity and decision-making skills. This is not a church problem as much as it is a parent problem. Moses made a disciple out of Joshua, but who was Joshua’s successor?
When parents fail to make disciples of their children, Apostolic values can be lost in one generation. Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Esther were in strange lands without a pastor, church or youth group, yet they stood strong. True disciples don’t leave, but they last no matter what the culture or environment is around them.
Tim Elmore, Mt. Pleasant, TX – This begins with discipleship, starting with the youth age to help them develop a better understanding of the beliefs that we have and how to combat the secular pull. Spiritual growth first starts with setting attainable and measurable goals. Also, we must know the pitfalls that we had to face when we were that age as well. The local church should bear the brunt of this issue. Many churches have great youth programs and just hope the young people make it through the next few years. Then, if they do make it, they have programs for the adults. But this age does need their own class to help them be equipped to make it through this phase of life.
Rodney Burks, Bay Point, CA – We are losing this group due to three things: the acceptance of this world has become a priority, we have placed a job as a higher priority than the kingdom of God, and we don’t have enough programs designated specifically for them. We also don’t incorporate them into ministry very often. We need to learn to allow our young people, before 18, the opportunity to step into ministry. Give them an opportunity to make mistakes. They need to be teaching and being used, even if they are not the best. This sets the example for the generation following them. We need to quit looking at people according to what they can do, but use them in what they’ve never done and see what God will do through them.
J.R. Meyer, Portland, OR – Coming from a small church background, I saw that the leader of this group must be a spiritual leader that balances and builds relationships with this age group. Connect them with God, elders and the Word! Have pillars in the church be involved in mentoring and taking them in. If the church has a spiritual growth atmosphere, this group will thrive in it. This group longs to know God and feel God and see God work. Teach them that this is possible and teach them the Word of God and how to grow. Stay connected to this group in the schools, colleges, in their marriage. Show them you care. Show them the church is a place where you can find Jesus, be saved and transformed and truly have purpose.
Timothy Daywitt, Seward, NE – It is foundational to fall in love with Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven. This will guide them as they make important decisions. Get them connected to our heritage, then you can make plans for their future. Also, show them that living for God is something to be glad about. If living for God is all gloom, where is the joy of the Lord? Help them to not be discouraged about a lack of progress, but see what God is doing in their lives. They need to feel ownership and connected to the church. Don’t be afraid to entrust them with responsibilities. If they don’t feel like they are part, but just a statistic, they won’t feel engaged.
Rick Perry, New Haven, CT – One of the key things is getting them plugged in; we trust them with equipment worth millions in our military but hesitate to use this demographic in the church. From a pastor’s perspective, you have to be patient with their college and work schedules. The greatest enemy of that age group is the feeling of isolation – being on a campus and busy with life, it’s easy to be disconnected from the body. Stay connected with them! Every church is unique. We don’t have a “Sunday school” class for them, but we do outside activities, like bonfires and events at our home to talk about life and disciple them. There has to be a place where they are ministered to at their level with what they are dealing with, whether that is a Sunday School class or other meetings.
Stefan Vitanza, Bloomington, IL – If we are going to keep young adults and win new ones, we cannot simply try to attract them with programs. They need to understand why we serve God and have a genuine love for the things of God. If we will teach them to love prayer, they will learn to love God. We live in a culture that says right is wrong and wrong is right. If they know how to pray, they will learn to walk in the Spirit. Doing so will equip them to be a Christian in an increasingly godless society. We also need to involve them in God’s work. If they are able to use their gifts, they will develop a sense of belonging and commitment.