According to a recent article in the New York Times, the largest generation in American history is now enrolled in college. That statistic is amazing in itself, but added to that is the fact that current research has revealed that ministering to college age young adults may be the weakest area of ministry in many, many local churches. We need to change that trend!
I am convinced that any church can and should minister to the young adults in your area by implementing a few proactive and simple strategies. However, before I list those ideas, I must emphasize the fact that a ministry to this age group requires a commitment to do it. Many churches see high school kids leave the church following high school without tracking them to see where they are going to church or if they are even going on for God. We must close this gap and reinvest in this “missing generation” in our church. A ministry to this strategic age group begins with an investment of people resources. In other words, churches must decide to make college-age young adult ministry a priority.
Here are some ideas on how your church can minister to this large and needy people group:
1. Start by developing an opportunity to teach them God’s Word!
This really is a simple place to start. Does your church have a Sunday School class for college-age young adults? If not, why not start one right away? Even your recent high school graduates need a place to study God’s Word following their involvement in the youth group. Recruit significant, Godly adults in your church to lead this new ministry – and remember that this current generation is not looking for a revision of what they got in youth ministry. College-age students want to be treated as adults; in fact, many of them many be enrolled in high-academic college or university majors. It doesn’t make sense for the church to give “fluff” to this age group when they are craving serious and important truth! If your church does not have the resources for a traditional Sunday School class, you could develop a regular time of Bible study for them instead. This age group needs Biblical answers that counter the various secular world views they are hearing in college. So, a teaching ministry is the place to start!
2. Provide Godly older mentors to build growing, personal relationships with this age group.
This age group needs older people! The church can and should provide Godly older mentors for this generation of emerging young adults. So many college-age para-church organizations tend to separate young adults from the church by gathering groups of peers together on college or university campuses. Friends, this is a mistake. This demographic cohort desperately needs the church. The church can provide the human resources of a “family” of older adults who are willing to develop growing relationships and connections with college-age young adults. (For more information on the subject of church-based mentoring you can contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Encourage and teach your church’s older adults to take the time to build personal relationships with younger adults.
3. Supply opportunities for this age group to have fellowship.
Friends are the life-line for this age group. That’s another reason why churches should “do something” for young adults. The church can and should provide real fellowship – with other members of this age group and with other ages. It’s a shame, in some ways, that college and university students tend to develop their friends outside of the church. This generation is not looking for a series of “youth group games” or activities. A ministry to college-age young adults should look differently than that. Fellowship for this age group will probably feature hanging out around a cup of coffee instead of taking the members to the nearest amusement park.
4. Give them leadership opportunities in the group and in your church as a whole.
One of the most effective ways to offer something for this age group is to give them some specific leadership responsibilities within the group – and within the greater structure of the entire church. In other words, give them something to do. This generation can lead Bible studies and will have influence on their peers. They are no longer teenagers – they are emerging adults. Give them leadership opportunities and work to train them for future positions of leadership in the church.
5. Offer resources to help this age group become involved.
A very effective way to minister to this age group is for the church to supply resources for this generation that is in so much transition. Mentoring is one way to do that, but there is a vast variety of ways that a church could minister to college-agers. One church (located near a major university) hosts a meal for college students every Sunday afternoon. Another church provides transportation to and from the nearby college campuses. My home church recruited a team of families to host college-age students in their homes on Sunday afternoons. The point is that every local church has a supply of resources that could be utilized to minister to this age group. Ideas abound.
These simple ideas do not do justice to this important aspect of church programming. However, it is a shame for churches to do nothing – especially when the number one time people walk away from church is immediately following high school. It’s time to do something!