July 26, 2017

Whiteboard Wednesday: Reaching the Next Generation – Create, Connect, Commit

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When we look at recent research on the number of young people who are leaving the church, solutions can seem pretty bleak. It’s tempting to think that if your church hired just the right person or constructed the most attractive structure, younger generations would flock back through the sanctuary doors.

But we know that young people aren’t looking for hyper-relevant pastors or flashy worship experiences. They’re searching for authentic connection and mutual partnerships with other people in the church. Today, Rick Zomer, Coordinator for Next Generation Engagement for the Reformed Church in America, outlines three practical steps for your church to consider to forge the type of genuine relationships and shared understanding that young adults are searching for.

1. Create a shared understanding

Meeting young people where they are begins with understanding that their context is actually a lot different than yours might have been – even 25 years ago! Concepts that can seem universal, such as community, have actually evolved because of technological advancements or economic factors. For example, with the advent of Wifi, community is no longer a purely tangible experience. Young people can be in genuine community with people both across the street and across the world. Also, adulthood today can no longer be marked by traditional milestones such as marriage or homeownership. This could be misinterpreted as laziness or lack of maturity in younger generations, but many young adults carry the heavy burdens of unemployment or student loan debt. Instead of coming to quick conclusions, ask questions and find out what factors are shaping the lifestyle and worldview of young people you know. This goes a long way in developing a mutual understanding of the life of today’s young adults.

2. Connect with young people

The Fuller Youth Institute discovered that today’s young people have a desire to deeply understand their identity, belonging and purpose – but that’s not unique to their generation. Those types of questions resonate and belong with all of us. Everyone has a unique understanding of God’s call on their lives that’s shaped their life story – and this can become a place of connection. What might it look like to share your story with a younger person? When you do, you might discover how much you have in common. This shared empathy is essential for forging genuine relationships.

3. Commit to ministering together

Do you have a long term vision for how your church will invest in ministering both to and with young people? How is that commitment reflected in your church’s budget and calendar? Statistically, in the Reformed Church in America, the average youth pastor lasts for about 24-30 months. This is not a very long time – and why is that? Often, it’s because a young person moves out of seminary into a youth director role,  but their salary doesn’t change as they move through new life stages. This turnover prevents churches from making any deep connections or traction with young people.

Outside of youth ministry, it’s also becoming increasingly important to integrate young adults into leadership across the church. Traditionally, roles like elder or deacon are reserved for older, more established adults – and younger people are told to wait their turn to speak into the life of the church. But young people are sick of waiting. Can our churches create new pathways to unleash the gifts and talents of people of all ages in our leadership teams and partner in ministry with younger generations?

Watch the full video above for more tools from Rick Zomer – and be sure to like the Luminex Facebook page to discover more great church leadership resources.

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