If you’re thinking about launching a ministry to twenty- and thirtysomethings, you’re not alone. There are literally hundreds of others around the country who share the same passion and calling to encourage and equip this generation. We’ve interviewed several pastors, leaders and church planters around the United States to find out what they wish they would have known before launching into ministry to young adults. Here’s what we discovered:
- You can become so relevant that you become irrelevant. In other words, in your desire to be different, cool or hip, it’s possible to lose the core message of Christ. “Jesus didn’t die just to become another religious choice out there,” says Scott Rourk, pastor of The 411 NYC in New York City, New York. “He died so we might have abundant life. That’s huge for a generations looking for meaning in life.”
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the difficulties, complexities and even the mysteries of the gospel. Remember that your message doesn’t need to be boiled down to a set of steps or an easy-to-follow program. This is a generation is attracted to wonder, struggle and even issues that offer no resolution. This is a generation that can handle the truth and actually desires to explore spiritual paradoxes.
- Be your real, flawed self 100% of the time. Let them know you’re struggles, weaknesses and failures. Don’t be afraid to step off of the podium and become fully human. Your mistakes and transparency with which you experience trials actually become a connecting point for this generation.
- Pray, pray and pray some more. Prayer needs to be cornerstone of your work. You must carve out time between the countless, immediate demands to pray. And it’s not going to be easy. It’s also important to surround yourself with people who can pray for you on a regular basis.
- Be willing to learn from anyone. “My mother says you can learn from a rock,” says Rourk. “And she’s right. A rock can be as minimal as a paper weight or a pet; or a rock can be at its most dangerous, a weapon.” Look for spiritual insights and lesson from a broad range of topics, life experiences, situations and people. Then, be willing to share what you’ve learned with others.
- Find people who can support and encourage you and simply be your friend. Ministry can be a very lonely place-no matter what age-group you’re working with. For every life-infused celebration, there are also hurts, disappointments and losses. You need people who can support you who aren’t directly involved in the ministry-whether it’s your spouse, a more experienced church planter, or a veteran Christian. Connect with other church planters who seeking to reach this generation. You’ll need them, and they’ll need you.
- Don’t try to compete with the world. It may be tempting to try to compete with the latest brands, fashions, film and television shows, but always remember that what you have is better. Matt Carter, lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, says, “The twentysomethings of Austin, Texas, are the coolest, savviest, smartest young people I know…and I realized something very quickly. I can’t compete with the pop-culture in the cool department. I don’t measure up. I simply cannot compete with MTV or downtown Austin. But I can offer something the world can’t. And Austin’s pop culture can’t compete with me in this arena. I can offer them Jesus-an un-adulterated picture of Jesus (including) who He was, what He said and what He did. And twentysomethings are incredibly hungry to follow somebody as real, raw, genuine, and passionate as Jesus. We need to quit offering us to the culture and start offering Jesus.”