What does your church expect of emerging adults in your congregation?
The answer is usually nothing.
Your community should clarify and learn to communicate the expectations for emerging adults. I find that most churches expectations end when children graduate from youth group. Churches display an image of emerging adults as wild partying college students whose vision of church is smoking weed while talking about God, and might come back to faith when they have sown their wild oats. I believe these extremely low expectations actually contribute to the behavior and drop-off rates of emerging adults.
As you seek to make a difference in the lives of emerging adults, it is important to know what you want to see developed into their lives. While I often think that the modernistic “Purpose-Driven” approach has been overdone within our congregations, a clear vision helps a ministry become more effective. Take time to think through what you want for emerging adults within your community. (Here is a list of questions for your group to consider.)
As a spiritual mentor of emerging adults, my expectations were for each of them to have a regular times of worship, fellowship, and service. These are not new concepts, or the only ways that people grow in their faith, but they do take different expressions during the emerging adult years.
Worship –I desire that emerging adults spend time worshipping God in a broad community of believers. I do not care if it is at my church, as long as they are seeking and finding God in the midst of the community. Only about half of the group who attended our fellowship times actually attended our church. I regularly taught the importance of their role in an intergenerational church community, and not just a peer-centered ministry.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Fellowship – Emerging adults crave connection. Many of them have multiple social circles, and make spending time with friends a priority. Create a weekly space where they can rely on seeing friends who could encourage them in their faith. While the group targets emerging adults, it should also contains people from other age demographics. As the relationships in your group matures, the emerging adults will begin to schedule additional time to connect.
Acts 2:42 “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Service –Whenever I meet with an emerging adult, I often ask them how they can see themselves serving regularly (not once a month, but regular service) within or outside of the local church. Their service needs to go beyond relieving social conscience, and towards building into the lives of others. Serving regularly also provides emerging adults with skills and abilities that could lead them into discovering their vocation.
Ephesians 4:11-13 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
Through these regular practices of worship, fellowship, and service, emerging adults will grow in their development (discover vocation, establish autonomy, and develop community – links) as they become more like Jesus.
Where is the bar set for emerging adults in your congregation?
Time to raise the bar.
Dr. G. David Boyd is Founder of EA Resources. He believes in the power of emerging adults to change the church today. If you have questions about empowering emerging adults in your community, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.