Posted by: Brian Musser | August 21, 2012

Is Your Church Good at Connecting with Young Adults?

You meet Brandon at a training event for your work.  During one of the breaks you are able to begin a conversation with him.  Brandon is 27.  He is four years out of college and after spending two years working at a phone service help desk for a major financial institution, he has finally been promoted within your company to a “real” job.  Being promoted came with the added benefit of being transferred to your office.  Brandon just moved into the small apartment building right across the street from your church.  Brandon has a Christian background but didn’t attend church in college and really hasn’t looked for a church in the previous two towns he has lived in since.  He doesn’t see church as being relevant to his life.  He is not antagonistic to church.  He is more ambivalent.  Being originally from Iowa, his family lives pretty far away and really isn’t a factor in his life except during holidays.  His dad still lives in Brandon’s home town and mom has moved north to Chicago.  And yes, Brandon’s parents are divorced.  That happened while he was in middle school.  For a social life, he is beginning to hangout with some colleagues from work and he tries to keep up with his scattered friends through Facebook.  He often takes long trips to visit a good friend from college.  You are extremely surprised by how easily Brandon talks about his life to you. You’ve gotten pretty good at asking questions and engaging young adults in conversation.

You want to invite Brandon to your church but in the back of your mind you are pretty sure that Brandon wouldn’t be interested in your church.  Your church has very little to offer him.  You don’t have any programming or activities directly related to young adults.  Your pastor is older and not exactly up with current culture.  In fact he will use references to the Andy Griffith Show in sermons.  The songs your church sings are dusty.  There are about three young adults that attend your church regularly. They are all related to people in the congregation.  You wonder if they would be there if it wasn’t their family’s church.  You still feel like you should invite him so you say something like, “You’re probably not interested but if you ever are thinking about going to church, I go to the one across the street from you.  It’s not cool or anything and it might not be your speed but if you want to come, you have an open invitation to join me.”

Your Church may be More Interesting than You Think

At Drexel University several Christian student organizations will come together to do an event called Find-A-Church.  At 9 AM on the first three Sundays of the Fall term Christian upperclassmen will advertise the churches they go to, what they are like, and how to get to them for the new freshmen on campus.  I remember the description one of my student leaders gave.  He said, “Well, the church I go to is pretty old.  There are not a lot of students there.  In fact there aren’t that many people.  It is a small church.  We are looking for a new pastor.  We’re not quite sure what we are going to do about that.  Worship is kind of awkward.  But if you want to come we can walk over together.”  As you can imagine not many students wanted to connect with that church after that glowing description; however, that church has always had one or two Drexel students connected with it.  That church has much more to offer than what that student may initially highlighted.

I always ask students about what they like about their church.  Often they will comment on the preaching or worship style.  Sometimes they will be coming from a church with a vibrant ministry specifically for young adults.  But then I ask them a slightly different question.  What makes you smile about your church?  That answer is always about people.  It deals with relationships and connections.  So much of what churches have to offer young adults is not in its programming but in its people.

What Resources Do You Have that You Can Use to Connect with Young Adults?

What do young adults need?  What does your church have to offer young adults? When you try to answer those questions, I do not want you to concentrate on the programs, budget and/or ministry staff of the church.  I want you to think about the individuals that make up your church.  What resources, talents, skills, knowledge, connections, advice, expertise and other things do your church members have that a young adult might find useful?

Let’s go back to our imaginary co-worker Brandon.  What does Brandon need?  What are some possible connection points between Brandon’s life and your church?  Brandon does not see church as relevant to his life. Is it?

First of all, Brandon is new in town.  You and the members at your church have knowledge of the local neighborhood that could be useful to Him.  He may be able to get this information from other colleagues at work but probably many of his immediate peers are going to be transient young adults in similar circumstances.  You and/or your church has local knowledge that may not be available elsewhere.

  • Doctors
  • Hospitals
  • Bargain shopping
  • Decent priced housing in a decent neighborhood
  • Quality auto mechanics

Secondly, Brandon has moved recently and is renting.  It is a safe assumption that he doesn’t have everything a house has.  When you were a young adult, what were some things that you had to borrow off your parents or neighbors?

  • Tools and equipment
  • Grill
  • Pool
  • Garden
  • Storage

Hopefully, Brandon has some experience in these since he has been out of college for a while but there might be some life skills that he needs.  His parents may not have been able or taken the time to connect with him over basic things.

  • Budgeting
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Coupons
  • Car maintenance

Although, Brandon works in the financial industry many young adults could use substantial guidance about major financial issues in their lives.  Is there someone in your church who could give advice?

  • Wills and life insurance
  • Investments and retirement
  • Health Care
  • Car payments
  • Renting or owning a home and mortgages

These are just some basic ideas about what your church knows or has that might be of interest to a young adult.  These are ways your church could connect to a point of need for that young adult.  If you are able to make that connection you can build a relationship.  I want to leave us with a question to think about and discuss:

How Could You Make the Resources in your Church Available to Young Adults?



  1. Awesome, Brian. Thanks for the thought-provoking help.

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