How to generate excitement around Young Adult Ministry


A year ago I walked into our church’s young adult ministry and found less then ten people meeting on a regular basis. We’re a church of thousands. And there were 10. On a good day.  Around 15 years ago, our young adult ministry was thriving. From what I can piece together, between the congregation aging and some heavy turnover with leadership of the program, it simply faded. Sound familiar?

Whether you’re a small church looking to get some young adults attending or a big church seeing the gap in attendance, reaching people in their 20’s and 30’s is challenging. But challenging doesn't mean impossible. I was talking to an agnostic 30-something bank teller this weekend who had an older pastor as a customer. The pastor was telling him that he had no idea how to reach younger people and had stopped trying.  

This non-religious young man encountered a pastor and all he remembered was the feelings of resignation. And unfortunately, a lot of leaders are in this place. Because ministry is hard. And there is no magic wand.

But there is one thing you have control over. Your attitude.  

Like the pastor I mentioned before, the attitude you carry around makes impressions on the people around you, including young adults. Leader, you can’t afford to be resigned. Your feelings—good or bad—impact everything in your ministry. 

When you’re fully alive and excited, your ministry will pulse with a different kind of energy. When you’re hopeless, it will wither.

You are not entirely responsible for your setting but your attitude matters. A LOT. So here are three ways you can generate excitement for ministry to young adults:

1. What are you doing well?

Every church does something well. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s mission trips. Maybe it’s music. Whatever it is, don’t just do it. Do it really, really well. I went to a church for a while near Washington DC, and they had a full orchestra and it was awesome. People were passionate about their style of worship! They didn’t even try to be contemporary. And they were attracting young people because the leaders were passionate about this.

2. What are your conversations about?

I get together with people a lot. Coffees. Meals. Even walks. And in almost every conversation I talk about our community. Now there are two ways these conversation can go. You can be gossipy, bitter, and talk about how people are falling short of the goals you have. Or you can talk about the dream that God’s given you for this community. You can dialogue about what the future could look like and how new people in your community can continue to get to know Jesus in fresh and powerful ways.

 Young adults can smell desperation. But if you have a dream, you will be talking about it. And that’s going to attract people.

3. Try new things.

When you try new things, it signals that you’re excited about possibility. You're willing to risk! As a young pastor and leader, I have found myself arriving at church after church asking “Why do we do it like this?” The response is often “we just do.” This is dangerous. Don’t let yourself fall into the pattern of simply repeating the same stuff over and over. Experiment. Try new things. Make educated guesses. Improve on previous ideas. I am constantly trying new ideas in my ministry settings. Some of them work. But even when they don’t, it sets the tone that the leader is excited. People will forgive a lot if you can share your excitement with them.

 Finally, I want you to remember something. Excitement is not hype. Hype is creating buzz about something —even if it’s unworthy of excitement. Excitement means your heart is in it. And people need to know that’s the case. If you can find your excitement, you are removing some dangerous roadblocks to reaching young adults.