I am reading the book, The Essential Church, by Thom and Sam Rainer. Now, I have only just begun the book (about 40 pages), but it has already reinforced a concern that I have had for more than ten years: the need for the church to win our children, youth, and young adults to Christ, to keep them connected to the church, and to mobilize them into the harvest. Too few are sticking and staying. In my experience, the church as a whole is doing a poor job of reaching this generation. If something does not change soon, the church in the United States will be much smaller and weaker into the days ahead.
On the other side of this issue, I have more hope today than ever before for this generation of young adult leaders and the impact they will have on the church and the Kingdom. I just spent two days with 12,400 people at Catalyst in Atlanta. Many of them are young leaders. Many of them will do life and ministry differently than the rest of us. And ministry in the days ahead will need to look differently than it ever has in order to get different results. I believe these young leaders will lead the church toward creative ways to help young adults stick.
One of the points that the Rainers have been clear about in The Essential Church is that the church is doing a poor job of finding places for our teenagers and young adults to serve. They want to be valued. They want to be at the table. But they don’t need busy-work. They don’t want meaningless titles. They want to accomplish important things in the church and Kingdom. They want to make a difference.
I remember graduating from high school. I had been active in my youth group. I attended the college class faithfully for a year, but I wanted more. I began to seek an opportunity to serve. As a nineteen-year-old, I accepted an invitation to teach Grades 7-9 boys. That kept me active, connected, and growing as a young adult. I was active in visitation. I was faithful in worship. I prayed for my church. I tithed. I was ordained as a deacon when I was twenty-one. I became the volunteer youth director.
Instead of declining, many churches would grow if they could just keep their connections with teens and young adults. What can we do to release the gifts, talents, experiences, personality, and passions of young adults and teens? In order to keep young adults and teens and make church more essential, we have to start finding places for them to serve in and through the Sunday School before they drop out. Some of these opportunities may need to begin during the teen years.
What would you add to these opportunities for young adults (and teens?) to serve in and through the Sunday School? Consider the following:
- Sunday School greeters
- class greeters
- care group leaders
- discussion/small group leaders–master teacher approach
- mission project planners
- mentors for teens: spiritual disciplines
- new Christian encouragers
- guest followup
- preschool, children, and youth teachers and workers: greeters, fellowship planners, mentors, and sponsors
- prayer teams, partners, and chains
- absentee ministry
- service team/coordinators
- launch new young adult groups
- off-site young adult groups
- refreshments providers
How are you doing right now at helping young adults (and teens) find places of service in your Sunday School? If you continue doing what you are currently doing, what will the future look like? What are the first s teps you can take to change this? What service role can you enlist young adults (teens) to fill this month? Pray for your teens and young adults. Ask them to serve with you. Enlist them to help with the harvest. Be revolutionary!
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