“Last call for childcare workers!” This is the tune of the typical invitation to the young adults in our churches. To those making the ask, I’m sure they are well-intentioned and truly desire the help, but when this is the extent of our offer of meaningful participation for young adults, the need and good intentions are not well-received. Instead, what’s heard is, “Hey, we aren’t willing to let you do anything else here, but because we’re desperate for workers, you could probably do it.” This is not the road to meaningful participation that is essential for the development of young adults in the local church.
Last month, I wrote about my recent research pointing to our need to connect the generations in our churches (Two Ways Churches Can Connect the Generations). That research also indicated the necessity of meaningful participation in order to effectively develop young adults as leaders and disciples.
My observation has been that those who serve in significant roles in our churches will frequently become those most committed. But, as my wife always asks when I tell her of my grandiose ideas, how in the world do you do it?
Here are three key factors for providing significant service opportunities for young adults in the church.
- See their potential.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus saw in the disciples, what God saw in Moses or David, or what Paul saw in Timothy? It wasn’t a track record of business success, deep pockets, or tons of followers on Instagram. Throughout Scripture, we discover God choosing those who were least likely to have great influence in His Kingdom. In providing young adults with opportunities for meaningful participation, we can’t expect that they’ll have it all together or have years of experience. They won’t have it all together, and neither will a 45-year-old. They also likely won’t have experience—mainly because we haven’t let them serve before. We must be able to imagine the potential.
- Train them well.
The first time my oldest son wanted to try out as pitcher for his baseball team, I remember telling him, “Grab your glove, let’s see what you got.” It was minutes later that I realized he had no idea what to do or how to do it. Once a few people began to show him the proper mechanics, and he got a little training, it changed everything for him. If we are going to engage young adults in significant service roles in our churches, we must have a plan for how to train them.
- Check in often.
Don’t assume that once young adults start serving, they won’t need constant reminders of why they are serving and how to do it. We all need a good cheerleader in our life. So, grab the megaphone, and let them hear your encouragement. You should be their biggest fan!
Meaningful participation is an essential part of engaging young adults in our churches and developing them to be faithful disciples and effective leaders. In order to accomplish this, we must create space in significant roles, see their potential, train them well, and check in often. This may be risky, but good leadership involves calculated risks supported by a clear strategy.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min and an M.Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.