Someone from our team is asked nearly every week, “How do you grow a young adult ministry?” I usually correct the inquirer and say, “You mean how do you lead a young adult ministry?” Then I answer with, “Well, this is what we do: we find the best volunteers we can and empower them, we preach from the Bible, and we pray a whole lot.” That answer rarely satisfies, so I thought I would pass on some practical best practices that we’ve captured over the years.
Call Them to Something Great
I realize young adult ministries vary in how they are set up and resourced (i.e., weekly gathering, no gathering, small groups, staff, etc.). All young adults, however, want to be called to something. So, first of all, call them to something great, and do so consistently and with clarity.
This is back to the basics. Jesus used young adults to change the world. Think about it: He could have used toddlers or the elderly, but instead he chose some guys most likely between 18 and 39 and said, “Follow Me.” So, we should do the same and say, “Follow Jesus.” Let the dead bury the dead, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, throw down your nets, take up your cross and FOLLOW JESUS.
Young adults are desperate to do something great. So were the disciples. One of their most frequently asked questions was “Who is the greatest?” Young adults will run to social justice opportunities, not realizing the gospel is even greater. We should give away shoes, and water, and food, and clothes, and build houses, but we should do it in the name of Jesus. Call them to trade in their boring, vanilla dreams of wealth and suburban retirement for a mission to change the world in the name of Jesus.
Call Out Sin
Secondly, call out sin. If you love young adults, and want them to experience life in Jesus, then call out when they are pursuing death instead. Life is not found in pornography, materialism, premarital sex, shots of tequila, or self-righteous thinking. So, tell them that.
Yes, grace through faith is God’s free gift and offers us salvation in Christ. And anyone who has experienced that grace is being changed by the Holy Spirit and called away from their sin. We need to provide places where people can find accountability. This accountability is defined by people who are committed to knowing each other and loving God, and who will remind each other who they are in Christ when that perspective is lost.
Provide a Solution
Thirdly, provide a solution to their sin. They can’t stop on their own, so give them Jesus. Remind them of the beauty of the gospel, lest it become a stale replica of the vibrant truth it is. The solution to someone’s porn problem or spending problem isn’t to stop doing anything. It is to START following Jesus. You can’t follow sin and Jesus at the same time. Somehow that message has been lost among millennials. Remind them what is so amazing about grace so that they don’t give up when they revisit vomit like dogs.
Lastly, be real. I know who I am and I know who I’m not. I am rarely the smartest person in the room. I’m a guy from a small town, with an irrelevant education, and a big heart to see lives change. My twitter bio reads like this: A porn addict, alcoholic, narcissistic, materialistic, dead-man-walking who heard good news about a new life, and cant stop talking about it. That’s me, so why would I pretend it’s not?
God works through that. I’ve noticed a clear trend: whenever someone talks about their failures and the hope they've found in Christ, other people then talk about their own failures and find hope in Him too. I’m convinced that our biggest sin struggles become our greatest evangelical tools when we talk about the hope we’ve found in Jesus. This shows we are not in bondage to sin any longer. Indeed, His power is made perfect in our weakness.
So, I hope this helps, and I hope The LORD raises up a generation that will return this country to Him. When all else fails, find the best volunteers you can and empower them, teach the Bible, and pray a whole lot. Praying with you.