10 ideas to connect with young adults


We want to reach more people, more diverse people, and more younger people. —from the Oklahoma Conference Strategic Plan


Ministry with young adults is the primary assignment for one committee in the "New Christians" evangelism initiative.

James Lambert of Enid chairs the group. He said the team gleaned insights from a meeting last year with college and seminary students, churches’ young-adult ministry leaders, and campus ministers.

The committee placed online a report of that meeting, plus resources and recommendations to help churches connect with people ages 18 to 30, share with them Christ’s love, and incorporate them in the life of a church.

Recognized by the committee for successful young-adult outreach were: joint programming by Tulsa’s Southern Hills, Trinity, and Christ churches; and First UMC and Willow View, both in Enid.

With Rev. Lambert’s permission, here are: 10 "General Principles for Young Adult Ministry."

1 Change first and foremost

The local church body needs to be open to change if it expects people currently not participating to join the community. The message of Christ remains constant, but the method must change to communicate with new generations.

2 Ownership

New ministries, small groups, and worship services formed to reach young adults need to be conducted with/by this generation, not merely for them. Young adults differ widely—for example: urban, rural, and regional perspectives. One size does not fit all. What do the young adults of your community want and need from the church? The answers will help you connect them with Jesus Christ.

3 Unchurched culture (Many young adults have never participated in a church)

Many in this generation will not attend church as an expected "next step" when they settle into careers or have children. Many need to meet Jesus for the first time.

4 Millennial Generation

Young adults are identified as "the Millennial Generation" or "Generation Y," people born between about 1982 and 2001. Much information is available to describe their characteristics and differences from previous generations.

  • Millennials are "digital natives," comfortable with the newest technologies.

  • Millennials tend to delay some rites of passage. They may put off getting married and having children, and some remain dependent on their parents.

  • Millennials can be more idealistic than their parents. They are more likely to desire and expect to find meaning and purpose in their work than Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers.

5 Relational or polished

  • Polished. Young adults expect high quality in music, graphic arts, worship presentation, etc.

  • Relational. Congregations that can’t pull off a polished new worship service can succeed by building authentic relationships with young people, gradually introducing them to God through the Son. Young adults are interested in genuine friendships. As you get to know them and their concerns/interests, they develop "ownership" in ministry. (See Principle No. 2.)

6 Jesus vs. church/denomination

We must remember to focus on evangelism, on reaching those not yet attuned to church life. Millenials (and others) generally may denounce allegiance to institutions, but they can develop loyalty when they see the good the Church as an institution is doing in the world.

7 Community

Young adults are often extremely hungry for community, and that is one of the first things we need to provide them as we seek to reach new people for Christ and to make our churches younger and more diverse. How can we build bridges of connection?

8 Persistence and consistency

If your initial efforts aren’t a success, don’t give up! Young adults often resist commitments. Be diligent, pray, and think critically about what you’re offering and attempting.

9 Depth

Young-adult ministry should look different from youth ministry. One person told the committee, "Don’t dumb it down." Dig deeper, make new progress in your own journey with Jesus in order to offer spiritual significance for young adults. The terms evangelism and discipleship are interwoven; the best evangelists for any age or demographic group are the disciples whose faith has been formed over time sharing their faith with peers.

10 Relationships, relationships, relationships

To form an enduring body of Christians, a class, or congregation, begin by forming relationships with people already connected in the community. Time spent building relationships with your young-adult leaders and early group members is always a good investment.

("New Christians" Young Adult Committee: Chairman James Lambert, Devon Krause, Chris Symes, Andy Henson, Kel Penny, Becky Pierson, Woodward-New Horizon.)


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