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Designing an Effective Young Adult Ministry

In 2009, I completed my doctorate of ministry degree, which focused on helping churches establish young adult ministries. The following article is a shortened version of a manual developed for churches to help them do just that. This article works from the assumption that you like young adults. If you dont like young adults, quit reading now and give this article to someone who does. God bless your work.

1. The Vision: Why do this?


How do you describe vision? Vision, in a biblical context, took form in dreams as God worked with men and women to do something else. Vision was about the future and it was definitely about the present. So what is your (or your congregations) vision concerning young adults and the church? If God has given you a vision to do young adult ministry in your church, what is that vision? What does it look like? The clearer your vision for young adult ministry is, the better off you'll be. However, you must also ask, What is my congregations vision? Does my vision of young adult ministry coincide with that of the congregation? Do they clash in any way? If you don't have a vision, don't begin a young adult ministry. Young adult ministry should never be something we're trying out; it must be a vision from God that has been well thought out.

2. Dry Bones: What resources are available?


Young adult ministry doesnt happen in a vacuum. I guess it could, but you want a good quality ministry so we wont even consider vacuums. Who are the young adults for whom you are designing this ministry? As you list them, note whether or not they are married, single, or divorced. Do these folks have children? If so, how many? Are these young adults in college? Are they living away at college or somewhere local? Are these young adults in the military or are they pursuing a career? The more you know about your audience, the better off youll be when trying to plan for them. What natural resources are available? Natural resources are those things that already exist in the church or community. Where could this young adult ministry meet? Does your town have a college or university? coffee shops? entertainment venues? All of these things will be important as you construct your vision into a presentable idea for your church.

3. Consult with Pastoral Staff and Committee Chair(s).


You will need help, encouragement, and support to get this ministry moving. You have had this vision and you have done some legwork, but now you need to take your idea to the pastoral staff. Schedule an appointment to talk with your pastor. Why set up an appointment? It tells the pastor or staff member that this matter is important enough that you want a designated time to talk with him or her. A word of warningif you are going to receive a vision, if you are going to do legwork, then you are going to have to be a vital part of, if not help lead, this ministry. Why? Because the vision was given to you and God must want you to do something with that vision. The quickest way to kill this ministry is just to be an envisioner and drop it at the pastor(s) and or staffs feet. The pastor(s) and staff may be knee deep in their own ministry responsibilities and young adult ministry involves a lot of time and commitment if you do it right.

4. The Proposal: Cross your is and dot your ts.


So youre ready to head off to the committee meeting to share your proposal for a young adult ministry. You do not have to have all the details worked out at this point, but remember one rule of thumb: answer all possible questions before they get asked! This means that you are going to be thinking for an entire group of people and asking every question that they might raise. For example: Who are the young adults? When are you going to meet? Where are you going to meet? How long? How much is this going to cost the church?

5. Recruiting the Team: No messiah complexes here!


A messiah complex is when someone thinks that nothing could happen, succeed, or proceed unless he or she is involved. Well, this is not you because youve been thinking for some time about recruiting a group of volunteers to help launch this ministry. You recruit young adults and other people who are interested in young adult ministry to share in the leadership so that in the absence of one person the ministry can continue. A second reason to recruit a team of people is so you can delegate the work of researching how you will launch a young adult ministry

6. Study, Plan, Study, Plan, Propose.


You are now well into the planning for this young adult ministry. May God continue to bless your efforts. Dont get run down now; keep up your good work. Study and plan so that you cannot only share the initial vision for young adult ministry, but so that this group can refine and define it. The vision that God gave you will now begin to become embodied as you discuss hopes, fears, short and long term vision goals for this ministry and the manner in which your young adult ministry will take form. This is where you will decide: Who, What, When, Where, and How; we already know Why!

7. AdvertisingHey did you hear???


So youve got the green light and youre ready to proceed. What now? Now its time to start advertising your first event or meeting. Start using Facebook, texting, Tweeting and don't forget phone calls, invite cards (not form letters) and face-to-face meetings!

8. First Meetings: 1 versus 100


In A Generation of Ghosts, Randall Schroeder writes, Young adults choose the activities in which they want to take part. If they do not find an activity worthwhile, they will not come back. Quality is essential. When starting out, it is vital to be organized, have the necessary materials in place to offer a program, and offer a welcoming and accepting atmosphere. First meetings are vitally important for your ministry because it speaks to how much you want it to succeed. Put your best foot forward and rejoice whether a hundred people or one person show up. Young adult ministry is not about numbers, it's about the relationships we form.

9. Follow It Up: Time to celebrate.


Wow, its been a long road. You began with a vision and now youve had your first meeting. Take a deep breath. Its time to celebrate! Invite the leadership team to your place or out for dinner and tell them that your group is just going to celebrate, eat, talk about all thats been happening, and look at what it might mean for the future.

10. Now What: Where do we go from here?


Where do you go from here? Good question! Hopefully the time has been beneficial for the ministry youve begun. Time to keep it going. Over time the leadership will change. Ask people to give maybe a year commitment instead of six months. Youve gotten ideas from the group about what to study, do, and be involved in. Start living out that ministry.

Practical Young Adult Ministry


http://threadsmedia.com/lead/article/practical-young-adult-ministry/

Just about everywhere a member of our team goeswhether its to a church, an event like Catalyst, a college campus or citywide gathering of young adultswe get one simple question
So, just what is Threads? Im not a sound bite kind of guy, so answering this question can be a challenge for me. But Im going to give it my best shot. Threads is a home of ministry ideas we are building to help churches of Christ-followers effectively reach young adults, roughly ages 18 to 34. Were putting it all here at ThreadsMedia.com. I label it building because were a work in progress. I label it building because we dont believe we are the designers of this work. We believe God has started doing a great work among this generation, and we are trying to follow His lead and join Him where He is designing, working and loving His people. Were building this home of ministry ideas on four strong foundationsmarkers we believe are vital if the church in its future state is going to be successful in lovingly wrapping its arms around the people of this age group.

Community
If youre looking for the definition of Biblical community, you need look no further than Acts 2. Christianity exploded at this time in history because the power of salvation in Jesus was clearly communicated and because this power radically changed the lives of its followers. In Acts 2:41, we find that Bible teaching, authentic relationships, fellowship, prayer, a strong bond of love and care for each other, and praise for Gods goodness were common elements of this community. The threads of Christs love bound them together as one. If this young adult generation outside the church could find this kind see of biblical community today, we might find 3,000 people coming to know Christ on a single day. Gods power is just as capable today as it was then. It can happen in your churchwhere you live. Do you have multiple ways young adults can join with a community of believers for the purpose of Bible study, friendship and truly joining together in life? If you do, your church is following the best of the Acts design and God will truly bless your ministry. For more on community, check out these articles:

The Lost Art of Authenticity in Church How to Build Community In Your Young Adult Ministry

Depth
Todays young adults may be the most intelligent, most cynical and most marketed to generation in history. They are also the most spiritually hungry generation in history. As a byproduct of all of this, they accept nothing at face value. They accept no easy, pat answers. So a shallow, lukewarm exploration of what the Bible means nothing at all.

As the church, we have to be willing to exhaustively study the Bible, examine its difficult teachings honestly, accept and understand difficult questions and be willing to contend for our faith in Christ. Hard questions dont break down our faith. They build it up. Is your church willing to go deep with young adults? Are you OK with the unchurched asking you thought may have been unmentionable questions? Are your leaders students of the Bible who are comfortable expressing their own doubts and questions? If your answers to these questions are yes, then your church is ready for this generation.

Responsibility
When we started laying the groundwork for Threads, we conducted an exhaustive research project on the churchs efforts to reach young adults. One of the interviews for this research sticks with me to this day. We asked an unchurched young adult why she was not part of a church near her home. I cant give you her exact words, but it went something like this: This church across the street has been here 16 years. In the whole time it has been here, I have never seen this church do anything to improve the community. The church hasnt tried to improve the poverty situation, hasnt tried to feed the hungry, and hasnt tried to make anything better in the world right next door to it. Why would I want to be a part of that church? This question is one that still resonates loudly today. Churches who have abandoned the idea of social justice and responsibility for the world around them are churches that have no hope of reaching young adults. This generation wants to join a cause and a movement who is making an impact in the world. Churches that are focused on improving the blight of poverty, hunger, disease, substandard housing, weak education, the environment, and the difficult issues of the 21st century are focused on loving people. There are more than 1,000 verses in the Bible that speak of Gods people carrying the banner for social justice. Is your church carrying the same banner? If so, young adults will be with you. Responsibility doesnt end at social justice. It also extends to service inside the church, where young adults can use their gift and talents to serve the body of Christ. For more on responsibility, check out this article: Service = Vitality

Connection
Sherpas are natives of Nepal who have served as essential partners for the climbers of Mount Everest for nearly a century. They know where the dangerous crevasses lie. They know where to camp on the mountain for the night. They know when the storms are most likely to strike. Do you have seasoned Sherpas in your church who can guide young adults through the tough times in life? Do you have an intentional discipleship and mentoring process in your church where young adults can connect with older adults for friendship, help and advice? Its vital because too many young adults today have no one to turn to when it comes to the tough questions of life (faith, marriage, life, and work) or even the practical questions of life (changing my oil, preparing my taxes, making my budget work, building a resume). Churches who attempt to separate generations drive cracks into the foundation of the body of Christ. Churches who connect generations who need each other build healthy, wonderful bodies of believers who respect each other in every facet of congregational life. For more on Connection and Sherpas, check out this article: Sherpas, Mentors, & Intergenerational Ministry Community, Depth, Responsibility and Connection are what were about at Threads. We want your church to travel with on this journey toward reaching this generation with the Gospel and Power of Jesus Christ. If you want a bit more biblical background about why we chose the name Threads, take a closer look at Romans 12 and Colossians 3, where the Bible talks about the threadsthe characteristicsthat bind us together in Christ as His followers.

STARTING A YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY


Starting a young adult ministry where one has not existed is a difficult but worthwhile task. A difficulty when starting a young adult ministry is communicating that it is not a club or a group but a ministry. After talking with the parish priest, contact the Diocesan Office for Youth & Young Adults for guidance. They may be able to refer you to others who successfully have started young adult groups within the diocese. MINISTRY VS. ORGANIZATION This is a ministry of the Church, not an organization or club. It is simply a ministry for the faithful of the Church who share the same stages of life and common interests. Furthermore, this is a spiritual ministry based upon the theological tenets of the Catholic Church. PARTICIPANTS VS. MEMBERS Participation solely depends on being open to understanding the Catholic faith. A young adult who participates is not classified as a member or non-member. If he/she is a member of the Faith, he/she belongs! Therefore, these young adults should be called participants rather than members. Moreover, if a non-Catholic wishes to participate in the young adult programs, do not be afraid to offer ministry to them. GETTING STARTED With the guidance of the parish priest(s) and your parishs Pastoral Council and/or Parish Life Commission, organize a small committee of interested young adults. This committee should consist of a cross-section of different young adults in the community. The parish priest(s) should be invited to hold an advisory role on the committee. This group should be diverse in its make-up, but united in its mission. They should meet regularly to consider the needs of the parish, determine goals, and plan an initial activity. NEEDS ASSESSMENT It is important to take an inventory of your community and the young adults in it. Consider the following questions: - How many young adults could this group (or groups) potentially serve and facilitate? - What other activities are these young adults already involved in that might conflict with these activities? - What do the young adults like doing? - Where do they like going? - What do the young adults want from this ministry? - How often should this ministry meet? - What resources does the parish have to assist this ministry? GOALS AND PLAN After completing the assessment of your parish community, develop some preliminary goals of the young adult ministry. Consider the following questions using information from your needs assessment. - What purpose will this ministry serve? - How will we meet this purpose? (activities, meetings) - What resources are available to support the purpose of this ministry? - When is the best time to hold activities? - What do we want to do for our initial activity? - What will be the different roles and responsibilities of those involved? - How will we communicate and plan activities? - How will we track new members? - How can we collaborate with other ministries in our parish(es)? - How can we collaborate with other nearby young adult ministries? INITIAL ACTIVITY The initial activity should be a fellowship activity that is indicated by the needs assessment as something the young adults are interested in. The purpose of this activity is to get people interacting. The activity should be cost free, and having food is always a good idea. At the end of the activity, take ten minutes to review the plans for young adult ministry and gather input from the young adults in attendance. Additionally, have a date selected for the next gathering and hand out its itinerary there. Be sure to have everyone sign in and record his or her e-mail address. PUBLICITY This organizing committee should send an introductory letter to all of the potential young adults, to let them know about the formation of the young adult ministry. There should also be an invitation to the first activity. Although sending out invitations assures some communication of that information, it is impersonal. Whenever possible, the invitation should be followed with a phone call or personal e-mail. Different young adults in the community should share in the communication so that the burden does not fall on one person. The activity should also be listed in the

churchs monthly and weekly bulletins. As the group grows, have different young adults alternate when calling about meetings. It is not necessary to call everyone all the time, but it is important to call new participants or those who do not attend as frequently. E-mail is another great way to send out meeting notices and quick reminders the day before. By communicating what is going on in the group and having the young adults reach out to one another, the group will grow over time. INTEGRATION INTO THE PARISH COMMUNITY It is important to remember that young adult ministry is not limited to young adult activities; when a young adult serves as a lector or in the choir, thats young adult ministry! Leaders should consider ways to integrate young adults into the liturgical and sacramental life of the parish, and should seek opportunities to serve on other leadership bodies of the parish (Pastoral Council, etc.). YEARLY MAINTENANCE Every year, the group (or groups) will experience some fluctuation in size as young adults enter different stages of their life. Therefore, special efforts should be made to keep the ministry strong and healthy. When it is evident that a certain individual is not participating in activities, a special effort should be made to reach out to that young adult and bring them back to the ministry. Ways to do this are: - Have a peer contact them by e-mail, phone, or personal visit - Send a "We Miss You" letter It is important to ensure that the young adult ministry is meeting the needs of the young adults involved. Occasionally, and at least once per year, those involved should evaluate the program to see if it is accomplishing its goals.
Adapted from Young Adult Ministry Guidelines, Archdiocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Garrison, NY 10524

+ + + + + RECOMMENDED READING The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry, by John C. Cusick & Katherine F. Devries (Orbis, 2001). Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults (USCCB, 1997). Available for free online: www.usccb.org/laity/ygadult/toc.shtml

A MODEL FOR YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY

In this model, the ministrys overall program calendar includes a mix of social, spiritual, and service events. Some programs might overlap. For example, Theology On Tap is usually both spiritual and social, but if you asked participants for a canned good donation, it might be all three.

2 MODELS FOR YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY LEADERSHIP

In this model of leadership the entire team charts a course, then the work is divided up according to the talents of its members.

In this model of leadership one coordinator, or a small central committee might determine the events, or chart a course, then delegate to one or more persons to lead an event according to their area of specialty.