In many congregations, members will say, “Young adults and children are the future of our church.” What they often mean is “our doors will close if they don’t show up--and soon!”
But I believe the keep-the-doors-open motive for wanting under-50 people in the pews is usually in the interest of preserving an institution, a building, or personal memories, rather than the gospel.
Surely there is a higher, more powerful motive for wanting the next generation. I believe it is the same motive that fueled the growth of the early church: We have experienced joy, strength, fulfillment, peace, forgiveness and love in our life of faith in Jesus Christ. We love you so much, we want you to have it, too.
I am in my twelfth year of part-time ministry at Granville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We are truly a rural congregation, ten miles northwest of Paris, MO, in a county with a population of about 9000. The average attendance is 40.
I am blessed to serve there. The members are kind, loving people, eager to help others. They are also unusually open to change if they feel it will reach more people.
At our last two quarterly church board meetings, I shared my desire to reach out to the Gen-X and Millennial generations, (born 1965 through the present). In January, we studied some materials from the book Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Powell, Mulder and Griffin. The authors were part of an extensive Fuller Youth Institute study of congregations that were attracting young people. We will be discussing more of the book at our April meeting.
The Growing Young key ideas are: empathizing with young people, focusing on Jesus, fueling warm community, prioritizing young people, binge good neighbors, and sharing leadership. The authors make the point that churches of all sizes, denominations, theologies and locations have begun attracting young adults.
There are a number of young adults connected to our church, most of them attending regularly, but not weekly. I met with several of them individually in their homes last fall. In February, the church hosted a free pizza lunch (facilitated by an 80-year-old supporter!) and a meeting to brainstorm and dream.
Thirteen young adults attended, with child care provided. They generated ideas and met again in March, when they began plans for mission projects and get-togethers. They are discussing the possibility of a young adult Sunday School class beginning in the fall.
I’m praying that our church can provide friendship, love and a focus on Jesus; and that we can paint a vision of possibilities that will further inspire them to follow Jesus together, love each other, and lead as the Holy Spirit calls them. We’ve only just begun. Prayers appreciated!
- Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin; Baker Books, 2016.
- Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations that will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof; The reThink Group, Inc., 2015.
- The Jesus-Centered Life: The Life You Didn’t Think was Possible with the Jesus You Never Knew, by Rick Lawrence; Group Publishing, 2016.
by Fran Schnarre, pastor, Granville Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ), Paris, MO