“We don’t want to scare them off.”
When it comes to working with young adults in ministry, you can’t treat them like kids.
Talking with people in congregations with a few committed young people I often hear their voices break with a hint of fear when you ask about encouraging them to get their youth and young adults more involved in their church.
They’re concerned that if they ask them to get involved it will frighten them away.
Meetings and committees mean reports and agendas and it is time-consuming and often foreign to young people, meaning they’ll need to spend extra time getting up to speed. Asking them to be involved in leadership positions within the life of your church (or even wider) will add load on their already full to the brim schedule.
Why would a young person want to be dragged into all that? Especially in isolation with no help, encouragement or mentoring.
Too often we think that for a young person to be involved in church life it’ll mean committees and meetings and extra hours and learning…and maybe even some extra study. It can mean that, and often the challenge is that young people don’t want all that because they see it as superfluous to a full Christian life.
The numbers are already in. Generations Z and Alpha are rejecting institutional everything. Service organisations like Apex have all but folded. The RSPCA is struggling to get volunteers. We see it every week in our church services.
What young people aren’t rejecting is the search for truth and how faith is a part of that.
Young people are keen to discover a warm community that provides leadership opportunities that grow them without dropping them in the middle of anything. Importantly, they want to have conversations about authentic discipleship and what it means to take Jesus’ message seriously.
We all understand the benefit of value. That sometimes we are rewarded to pay a little more for a quality product.
If we treat our faith as if it costs nothing, then it’s not worth anything.
It’s the same with young people and their faith journey. We have to live our faith authentically as we be the best neighbours to others and show that the value of discipleship is priceless because it cost Jesus everything.
We must not be afraid of expecting things of our young people. Offer them responsibility, and walk alongside them with encouragement and guidance as they complete the task. If we dump stuff on them and leave them OF COURSE they’re going to walk away. That’s not building expectation; that’s being irresponsible (and, honestly, selfish).
We know there is a cost to discipleship. The challenge is living a life worthy of that cost. Valuing it and recognising that cost is impossible for each of us to repay, yet we’re covered because that price is paid due to God’s love for all of us.
God expects us to love God, and love other people. These are the dual commandments Jesus spoke about in Matthew 22 and Mark 12. These commandments come with an expectation on us as followers of Jesus.
Let’s not be afraid as we talk about the realities of discipleship with young people to communicate there’s a cost, and for good reason…in that cost, we find eternal life.
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Molk is the Young Adult Ministry Lead and Senior Field Officer (North) within the PULSE team