By Ryan Keaton
Emerging Generations Specialist, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
Is my church effectively reaching young adults? Churches across our state are asking this same question. With this new year upon us, churches can seek to focus their efforts on being intentional in reaching, engaging, discipling, and sending young adults. The “magic bullet” for reaching young adults does not exist.
There is not a quick-fix solution to turning the trajectory of your church around, or even fine-tuning the ministry your church may already have. Each church must put their finger on the pulse of their community as they strategically develop a ministry plan that aligns with their church’s mission to reach young adults.
While processes will adapt in different churches, characteristics will remain the same. Churches must provide a ministry pathway that takes young adults from attraction to the church to being sent through outreach ministries of the church.
Each step of this process provides connecting points for churches to engage young adults in growth opportunities through discipleship and service. The first step of the process is attracting young adults to your church.
The word “attraction” can be an uncomfortable buzzword among some evangelical circles in terms of outreach models.
While churches could point to misuses of the word “attraction” as reasons to not change their ministry model, the reality is that attraction does not have to equal compromise.
Churches can (and should) attract young adults while still holding a firm stance on biblical values and teaching. Church leaders need to ask themselves intentional questions about their processes to see how they are being perceived by young adults who are not affiliated with their church.
What will young adults find before they arrive at your church building? If someone who was not familiar with your church were to type your church’s name into Google, what would they find? Does your church have an updated website that is easy to navigate? What information is on your church’s website, and how easy is it to find that information? How long does outdated information stay on your church’s website? Does your church have a social media account? What does your church post from the social media account? Does your church provide online, spiritual resources?
These questions might seem like unnecessary hurdles for churches to ask. Keeping up with a website or social media page is tedious, time consuming, and foreign to many church leaders, but it is an important aspect in attracting young adults to your church.
A 2013 Barna Research article reports, “About one-third of Millennials are using online search to scope out a church, temple or synagogue online. This increases to over half (56 percent) of practicing Christian Millennials who do the same. It may be that for Millennials, checking out a faith community online, from a safe distance, is a prerequisite for the commitment of showing up in person.”
We often evaluate what happens when a young adult arrives at our church, but the process starts long before they ever pull into your parking lot. Your church’s virtual presence and reputation matter. The digital world around us is changing, and it is critical for churches to learn to adapt.
Let’s go back to the driving question of this article and go just a step further — is what young adults find before they attend what you want them to know about your church? In the same study, Barna Research also reports that 54 percent of practicing Christians and 31 percent of all Millennials watch online videos about faith or spirituality.
Additionally, 59 percent of practicing Christian Millennials and 30 percent of all Millennials search for spiritual content online. Young adults are searching for answers on the internet.
How is your church providing answers to the questions that young adults are asking? How is your church reaching young adults through digital platforms like social media outlets or YouTube? What are young adults finding out about your church before they even attend? B&R