Posted by: Brian Musser | June 6, 2012

10 Suggested Ways for You and Your Church to Connect with Young Adults

I will be speaking at Paoli Baptist Church on Sunday, June 24th at 11 AM.  Feel free to come out and here me or you could visit the church when I’m not there.  The subject matter which I’m planning on covering is how a church can better connect with Young Adults.  In preparation for that time I’ve compiled this list of 10 suggested way for you and your church to connect with young adults.  I am hearing from you so if you have any other suggestions please leave them in the comment section.

1)  I believe the first thing we have to do is to realize that passing our faith on to the next generation is a our Christian duty.   In one of the central passages of the Christian Old Testament, Moses records God’s command; “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:6,7)  Then in the New Testament, the missionary Paul writes a letter of encouragement to a young pastor named Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2)  Both these passages (and more throughout Scripture) illustrate a general rule that it is our responsibility to pass that which we know about God through Jesus on to others, especially onto those in the next generation.  It is not the “Church’s” duty to pass our faith on to others.  It is not “Christian’s” duty to do so.  It is our church’s duty and our personal duty to do it.  You are responsible to pass the faith on to the next generations.

2) The second thing is to realize that the connection between generations that is necessary to pass our faith on is counter-cultural.  Our society is designed to isolate generations.  Our school systems from elementary age all the way through higher education are segregated based on age.  Our commerce industry specifically targets generations and age brackets.  The church is only major cultural institution that intends to bridge the generation gap.  In order to do this we will have to work against the norms of our culture.

3)  Because it is our duty and because it will not happen naturally in our society we must make an intentional commitment to reach across generations.  You cannot wonder why your church is not reaching the next generation.  You cannot sit back and suggest that your pastor should do so.  You have to make an intentional commitment that you will try to connect with the next generation.  You will want to include your pastor and your church in the how this is going to happen but you cannot wait for someone else to do it.  you have to be the one that makes the decision.

4)  Now a practical suggestion. Right now, on a piece of paper, make a list of everyone you know between the ages of 16 and 30.  Include family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people who work at businesses you go to regularly and anybody else that comes to mind.  For those persons who you think of that you do not know their name, make it a point to learn their name next time that you see them.  Write down as many details about each person that you know.  Think of pieces of information that you might want to know about each person.  Intend to ask questions next time you see them.  In other words, intentionally start moving some of the young adults that you already know from the acquaintance category into the friendship category.

5)  Pray for the young adults that you know.  Ask the Holy Spirit to identify specific individuals that you have things in common with in order to better develop a relationship.

6)  Inventory what you have to offer the next generation.  Recently on a Spring Break Ministry Road Trip I watched my 90 year old German grandmother talk for two hours with four African-American college students about making ceramics.  Later the students were talking about how impressed with my grandmother they were, how encouraged they were by seeing someone still full of life at that age.  They really appreciated the connection.  Realize that your life experiences, your story, the skills you have developed in your lifetime are resources that most young adults need.  And realize that they are as afraid to ask you for help figuring life out as you are about giving them advice.

7)  Intentionally start learning about young adults.  Read some books on the subject.  Visit some websites.  Ask some questions and then go find the answers.  Below is a short list of places you can start the learning process.  This list was compiled in a couple minutes of what I’ve been looking at today.  Please feel free to add more sources in the comment section.

www.changingsea.org

www.cpyu.org

www.tcnj.edu/~clydesda/

www.nd.edu/~csmith22/books.htm

Another good way to learn about young adults is to bother your youth leader and or local area campus minister with questions.

8)  If you want to know how to connect with young adults then you have to be willing to be present online.  You do not have to be a technology guru.  You do not need to be a savant with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  But you need to be willing to enter the online world.  This is just a personal opinion of mine.  It is a strong bias and prejudice but when I hear someone say that they are not interested in learning about Facebook, I automatically put that person in the category of not interested in connecting with young adults.  It is not so much the skills that are a bad sign as it is the attitude.  To missionally be willing to be present online is to be willing to be present in the lives of young adults.  To be unwilling to be present online means that you are not willing to make some changes in your life to come in closer contact with theirs.  I understand the lack of technological know how but if you are willing to learn how to be present online, guess who you can ask to help you figure out how?  A young adult!  Let them introduce you to the world wide web as it exists today.

9)  Another practical suggestion if you can afford it.  Instead of making your coffee every morning, once a week buy your coffee at a local coffee shop, i.e. Starbucks.  Become a “regular.”  If you can afford the time, drink you coffee in the the coffee shop.  You could use the time drinking the coffee to be present online.  Get to know your server.  Odds are they are a young adult.  Pay attention to who comes in on regular basis like you.  Probably, those young adults around you may be a good source of information about how to be present online or great people to ask questions of about young adults.

10)  Be willing to invest a considerable amount of time in building relationships with young adults.  Since cross-generational connections are counter-cultural it may take a longer time to really connect with young adults for them to see you as a friend instead of just an acquaintance.

I would love to hear your feed back on these ideas and/or suggestions for ideas that I did not include.  But one word of encouragement that I heard Dr. Tim Clydesdale, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology, the College of New Jerseysay in a lecture in Nashville, TN, “There are far more commonalities across American generations than there are differences.”  Let’s go intentionally start connecting with young adults to find those commonalities.

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