Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shares how “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
If you’ve been a ministry leader for any length of time, you’ve probably seen an expert tweet something like: “Never do ministry alone.” Or, maybe you’ve been to a conference with a theme of “Together is Better.” Have you ever wondered, practically, how to build intentional relationships with others who share the same passion? Do you wish you had strategic partnerships that were mutually beneficial?
If you want to take your ministry to the next level, here are a few game-changing partnerships you can apply to your setting:
- A Local Church
In business and leadership classes, they teach about core competencies of an organization. A competency is something that you as a leader or your organization or ministry do really well. The distinctive competency by definition is the thing that sets you apart from every other group. What are you the best in the world at?
I believe for a young adult ministry, the distinctive competency is that the ministry is a part of the local church. Most pastors envision their church thriving by reaching the next generation. College students and young adults add great value to any church. They’re both energetic and passionate as the now generation, and they’re filled with potential as the next generation!
- Youth Group(s)
There are so many reasons to partner with your church’s youth pastor and youth group. It’s common to stay in your lane and do what you do well. Some call this a silo approach to ministry. A value I’ve seen many churches embrace is “we > me.” The whole church (every generation) is greater than age group. Our combined efforts as a staff or team are more powerful than my own individual efforts.
Here are a couple of ways I’ve seen this done well:
•Team preaching: As a young adult pastor, I’ve often tapped into the resource of our church’s youth pastor to communicate to our group when I needed a break. Similarly, a youth pastor may go to a camp, missions trip, or vacation and needs a communicator who relates to their students to fill the pulpit.
•Transitioning high school graduates into campus ministries and eventually young adult ministry: This doesn’t happen by accident! Barna Group has their famous and recent statistic that 60% of students who grow up in the church walk away by the time they reach college. My hypothesis is that a lot of that involves us working together to champion the life stage transition steps of young people.
- Campus Ministries
This goes both ways. As a young adult pastor in a local church, I intentionally partner with and serve any way I can within our local campus ministries. I also look for ways that I can invite campus ministry leaders (as well as students) into the process of our local church and young adult ministry.
A few examples:
- Churches, at times, can offer funding in monthly support or cash towards ministry on campus.
- Local churches have volunteers who are just waiting to be asked to serve within a ministry on campus where they get to make an eternal impact and invest into the lives of students.
- Campus ministries add fuel to the vision and mission of the local church.
- The wave always starts in the student section. So, why wouldn’t pastors want to invite the next generation into their worship services, volunteer ministries, missions trips, and the lifeblood of the church overall?
One of the best things we can do in terms of student discipleship is help connect them to a local church during their college journey. The friendships and relationships on campus often have an expiration date of about four years. However, they can remain grounded and connected. In his book, Small Group University, Rev. Brad Lewis talks about how the trend is that 5 years after college graduation, only 20% of college students are still serving Jesus. The stakes are high for churches and college ministries to work together!
- Your Community.
I will give some ideas here, but every community is different. You will need to contextualize these into your setting. We see a beautiful model for reaching our community in Acts 1:8. First, in Jerusalem (your city), then Judea (surrounding area), then Samaria (greater region), and to the ends of the earth (global missions).
A few areas to consider are:
- High Schools
- College Campuses
- Local Businesses
One partnership in our ministry that has been unbelievable is with Chick-fil-A. A few years ago, they opened a restaurant in our city. Our church staff, being the Jesus-chicken-loving-people we are, frequented this location and posted about it on social media (giving them some great visibility). With no expectation at all, they have donated hundreds of chicken sandwiches to our church for different events in our community!
My challenge for you is to be the initiator. You can’t expect others to reach out to you first if you’re not willing to do this yourself. Young adult ministries need to build intentional relationships and strategic partnerships with local churches, youth ministries, college campus ministries, and businesses in their community. Many times, young adult leaders feel like they are on an island as the most under-resourced, under-connected, and under-funded ministries.
Remember, we are better together!
What stories or examples of partnerships do you have? Comment below!
Josiah Kennealy is the young adults pastor at Cedar Valley Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. He and his wife, Micah lead the movement called Minnesota Young Adults. Josiah wrote his first book in 2017 called Debtless: Helping Students Take On Less Debt. He’s passionate about helping young people find Jesus, grow in their faith, become debt-free, and pursue their God-given dreams. Follow Josiah via Twitter: @JosiahKennealy