He was your server at your favorite restaurant after church on Sunday.
She was sitting next to you on your bus commute this morning.
They get together as a group at your local coffee shop.
They fill your local college campus from August until May every year.
Who are they?
They are young adults (a.k.a…Millennials or Generation Z or 20-somethings or college kids or young professionals or the list goes on).
In our communities from the rural towns of Alabama to the major metropolitan cities of Seattle and Nashville, young adults are all around us.
But are churches really taking notice of them?
They have so much to offer. They are creative, entrepreneurial, educated, passionate – and searching.
But do you know them?
Church leaders, I’m asking you to consider doing three things this week:
1. Pray that God will open your eyes to the young adults around you.
Sometimes I’m oblivious to certain things around me until I intentionally take notice. Young adults are a part of our lives every day…all day. On your morning commute to work, ask God to open your eyes to the young adults on your daily path–from the cafeteria at work to your neighbors jogging throughout your neighborhood. And as you notice them, pray that God will reveal His hope and presence in their life. Pray that they will be used for advancing His kingdom within their community and to the nations.
2. Start a conversation with a young adult.
Life is busy. Often we’re so focused on what needs to get done that we miss opportunities to have meaningful conversations with others. Whether it’s the person in line beside us at the convenience store or working out next to us at the gym, take a chance and start a conversation. Introduce yourself. Find out something about him or her.
Many median or older adults are intimidated by young adults because of differences among the generations. However, we all have a story, and we’re all looking for people to share it with. We’ll never get to know each others’ stories if we don’t begin the conversations.
Seize the tiny moments of your day and begin a conversation with a young adult who crosses your path.
3. Start new young adult groups in your church.
Take a long, hard look at your church. Is there a space for young adults to find community and discover truth in their search for identity and purpose? It may take some time, but it’s key that you find the people in your church who are willing to step into an area of leadership in reaching young adults and college students.
Find some good material to study (this page is a good place to start) and dive into doing life with young adults through small groups.
Something churches must consider in starting new groups for young adults is time. The traditional time for our groups to meet is typically Sunday mornings. But the question must be asked, “Is that really the best time to connect with young adults?” For your community, it might be. However, many young adults work or have weekend responsibilities. If you are SERIOUS about connecting with young adults, you must consider the best possible time(s) to connect with them.
Matthew 9:35-38 says that Jesus looked up the crowds with compassion. Literally, Jesus was stirred for those He saw before Him. My prayer is that church leaders will use this same lens as we look upon the crowds of college students and young adults around us.
The first step in seeing them, though, may be opening our eyes.
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.