How Pastors Can Improve Their Young Adult Ministry
Historically, churches have needed to attract people from a variety of backgrounds to be successful. This fact hasn’t changed much over the years. When looking at current demographics, though, it becomes obvious that growing your youthful following has taken on considerable significance. This means it’s time to improve your young adult ministry.
In fact, if current trends are any indication, failing in this endeavor will be disastrous for your congregation.
Why is a Young Adult Ministry So Important?
There are many benefits your church can gain from a young adult ministry. Whether it’s bringing renewed vibrance to the congregation, helping in areas of new technology, assisting in further youth outreach or merely ensuring that your membership numbers remain sustainable – the youth in our communities play a very special role in houses of worship.
More importantly, though, is the fact that they ensure continuity of operations. Millennials outnumbered Baby Boomers in 2019, and by 2020, the cohort known as Generation Z (i.e. “Zoomers”) outnumbered Millennials. Young adults now make up the bulk of the U.S. population, so if you’re not appealing to them, your pews are going to slowly – but surely – empty out.
Your church can continue with a smaller congregation, right? Unfortunately, this may not be the case. A full 98 percent of church revenue comes directly from donations and tithing. Where does this come from? Your members. If you’re not attracting youth through a meaningful young adult ministry, it’s possible your church won’t have the financial stability to continue doing its work.
Starting a Young Adult Ministry
We’ll discuss ways to improve your young adult ministry below, but what if you’re starting from the ground level? Even if your donor segmentation efforts show that you already have Millennials and Zoomers in your congregation, you should still be concerned about them going to another church that made the effort to build a young adult ministry and devote resources to it.
If you’re ready to start your ministry, consider the following steps:
Get Everyone on Board
If you’re the pastor, speak with your parish staff. If you’re another church leader, work directly with the pastor. A new ministry in your church is going to require buy-in from everyone. Planning and implementing strategies are also easier when everyone is on board and working towards the same goal.
Speak to Current Young Adult Members
The best way to learn what young adults want in a ministry is to go directly to the source. Recent research shows that two-thirds of churchgoers between the ages of 18 and 22 will stop attending regular services, so it’s imperative that you reach out to those still in your congregation and let them know you care about their concerns.
Speak with young adults in your ministry one-on-one to discover what they’re looking for in church. Tell them what you want to do in a new ministry, and then ask them their opinions on how to make everything perfect.
Find a Structure that Works
One of the most important aspects of building a young adult ministry is the structure. When will they meet? Where will this occur? How are the meetings going to play out? While things can obviously change in the middle of a gathering, having a solid game plan can increase consistency.
Don’t worry if this takes a few tries to perfect. Every congregation is different, so you’ll be learning as you go. It’s okay to seek feedback and make adjustments. If you’ve used donor surveys in the past to gain insights, consider updating a questionnaire to learn what young adults think of the new ministry.
Improving and Growing Your Young Adult Ministry
Maybe you already have a young adult ministry and it’s simply not everything you envisioned. Maybe you’re just starting out and trying to learn how to build upon the solid foundation you’ve established. Either way, the following strategies will help you accomplish your goal.
Integrate the Ministry into the Overall Church
Millennials and Zoomers recognize that they’re part of a different cohort, but this doesn’t mean they don’t want to be part of a larger group. Your church should be one cohesive family, so you don’t want your youth adult ministry to feel as if it’s an outlying group with different thoughts, goals and beliefs from the overall church.
Offer fellowship and service opportunity signups to your young adult subset at the same time as other groups. This provides an opportunity for coming together as one congregation.
Focus on Social Responsibility
Millennials and Zoomers are especially concerned about social responsibility. Make sure your young adult ministry recognizes this and acts as such. This means service opportunities should revolve around at-risk youth, disenfranchised groups, eco-friendliness, social justice and community improvement. These are all important to your young parishioners, so they should be important to you.
Focus Hard on Technology
When you’re looking to engage current members or bring in new visitors, you should focus extensively on social media. When you’re offering alternative ways for congregants to give, make sure to mention tithing by text. Today’s young adults grew up surrounded by social media, easy access to information and always evolving technology. If you want to keep their attention, you must work within this reality.
Provide a Meal
When working to grow your young adult ministry, you’ll find that many of these members are working hard to live on their own. Wages haven’t increased much over the years, but younger generations are still increasingly deciding to leave their parents’ homes. What could be more appealing to these individuals than a free meal?
Don’t think of this as a bribe to bring in new congregants. In all honesty, it wouldn’t be a very good enticement. Look at this as a way to create a more welcoming atmosphere where members feel free to socialize with each other. Building social connections is an essential aspect of keeping young adults engaged.
Offer the Potential for Individual Growth
Fostering an environment that encourages social connectedness is important for building a young adult ministry, but you also need to offer opportunities for each individual to experience personal growth. Simple acts – ranging from taking turns while reading during Bible study to seeking input from members who are typically silent – can mean all the world for someone who doesn’t feel truly fulfilled.
The Youth are the Future
Every member of your parish is equally important, but if you’re not actively trying to bring in individuals from younger generational cohorts, you’re doing a disservice to your congregation. Years from now, these will be the people who fill leadership roles, donate to important missions and ensure your church continues into future generations. Never forget that all this starts with a strong young adult ministry.