Leader spots 4 keys to engaging young adults
    August 29 2008 by Kelly Shrout

    NASHVILLE, Tenn.,-- Young adults make up a new demographic within churches, and ministry as usual will not cut it for a generation seeking depth, authenticity and answers to the hard matters of faith.

    So said Jason Hayes, young adult specialist with Threads, the 3-year-old young adult ministry initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Hayes spoke during the Connect Conference held Aug. 25-26 in Nashville, Tenn. The conference, geared for leaders of young adults, offered several sessions that revealed recent statistics about young adults ages 18-34. The conference also included main teaching sessions, breakout small-group discussions and a question-and-answer panel forum.

    The statistics offer a challenge and an opportunity for ministry with young adults, Hayes told the attendees.

    "I don’t view these statistics as a problem, but a chance for God’s name to be great among a generation that is spiritual, but not religious," he said.

    Hayes outlined four markers, or pillars, of things that matter most to young adults. The markers were developed from an extensive eight-month survey of young adults from varied geographic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

    The survey results helped the Threads team pinpoint the following needs of young adults: community, depth, responsibility and connection.

    Create community

    "What we found is that young adults desire to do life together," Hayes said. "They desire relational equity and community that goes beyond casual hellos. They want to pour their lives into each other."

    Hayes said community should endorse a connection between a Christian’s actions and personal convictions. Community also should minimize church jargon, provide an atmosphere where it’s okay to not know all the answers, provide personal illustration, and encourage life application.

    "Above all, community among young adults must be biblical," Hayes said. "It will be a failure if we raise a generation who are just friends. Growing in the likeness of Christ is essential."

    Provide depth

    Hayes also encouraged the young adult leaders to provide depth in their ministries.

    "What we found in our research is that young adults who are churched are saying, ‘If we are going to stand for truth in a world that is not standing for truth, we want to be equipped,’" Hayes said. "The unchurched are saying, ‘We are not going to make a decision at face value. We want to make informed decisions when it comes to matters of faith.’"

    Young adult leaders must engage in theology, apologetics and offer insight on worldviews and other religions, he advised.

    "Teach the whole Bible, foster discussion and answer the difficult questions of faith," he said. "Offer quality, exegetical Bible teaching and sing theologically sound music that accurately depicts the Word of God."

    Cultivate responsibility

    For churched young adults, responsibility comes in the form of service, evangelism and missions. For unchurched young adults, social action and global responsibility are a huge priority.

    "For both church and unchurched young adults, we have found that both recognize that their choices make a difference and they want to improve the world around them," Hayes said. "As a result of this heightened sense of responsibility, we can help create a door for service and evangelism."

    Make a connection

    "As we continue to understand younger adults and what they’re looking for, we must recognize the heavy value they place on connecting with people who have more life experience than they do," Hayes said. "Some would call this mentoring or cross-generational ministry. The bottom line is that they want to learn from someone else’s experiences. They’re looking for a connection with the church and a connection with people who are willing to walk alongside them and give a little advice here and there."

    Hayes encouraged the attendees to connect personal application to convictions. "If an absence exists between what you say and what you do, young adults will become quickly disinterested," he said. "If you desire for your church to be a healthy body that raises the banner of intergenerational ministry, you need to personally invest in this generation as well."

    The next Connect Conference will be held Sept. 4-5 in Charlotte, N.C. For more information about the young adult ministry at LifeWay, visit www.threadsmedia.com.
    8/29/2008 8:10:00 AM by Kelly Shrout | with 0 comments

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