This wasn’t a ministry strategy that was original to me … honestly it was a trend in our church that I inherited. But it’s become a mainstay for me in my church’s ministry to college students, young adults, and young parents. They’re called empty nesters, and they make up over two-thirds of the leadership in our young adult ministry. And, they should probably make up a large percentage of leaders in your ministry, too.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love seeing young adults lead their peers, and we’re working hard to see many of our college and young adult Connect Groups become peer-led groups. I believe there is so much leadership potential in our young adult generation, but it takes time and investment to see that leadership move from potential to active service.
In the meantime, let me tell you why you should be looking around your church for some fun empty-nester couples to invite into ministry with you. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ll give you four reasons why I’m so grateful for our empty-nester leaders.
- They have a heart for my people. They might even have a bigger heart than I do for them. After all, they raised them and they’re still loving them in adulthood. Many of the empty-nester couples in our church have young adult children and know what’s going on in their world. They’re deeply concerned about my college students, young single professionals, and young parents because they’re concerned about their own kids. They welcome the chance to pour into someone their kid’s age, and they deeply desire to see a strong ministry for young adults in our church.
- They’re the mentors my students and young adults are hungry to have. I hear and read quite often about how much young adults desire mentorship and coaching, and young adulthood is a season of life filled with transition. My students and young adults are hungry for mentors and coaching in areas like dating, marriage, finances, job searches, and career guidance. That desire turns to desperation as they step into the wild world of parenting! I have leaders teaching guys how to dress for interviews and parents how to work through potty-training. More than that, these leaders have walked through life and are constantly inviting my young adults to see what it looks like to live out their lives, careers, and marriages with Jesus as the foundation and focus.
- They have bandwidth and resources. My empty-nester leaders are busy people at work and home, but many of them are at a point in life where they have more bandwidth in terms of time and resources to invest in younger adults and families. Their kids are out of the house, some have a little more flexibility in their work schedules, and they often have the ability to engage and give time outside of Sunday mornings. They’re more willing and able to host young adults in their homes (and their homes might be a little bigger). My groups of young couples who are led by their peers need 2-3 couples in leadership to have the same level of ministry activity in their groups as my empty-nester leaders because of the time demands of young children and work schedules.
- They have maturity and wisdom to offer, often far beyond my own. Many of these leaders have served in ministry roles and leadership positions in the church for years. They’re not new to teaching, leading, or ministering to others. The maturity that they bring into a ministry role from the outset means it takes very little time to bring them up to speed, and they’re confident and willing to take the ball and run with it. I’ve found that if I can give them a compelling ministry vision and some clear direction, they’re ready to go and I have to run to keep up.Not only that, but they’re a gold mine for ministry ideas and wisdom. I’m constantly learning from them, and they serve as gifted counselors and encouragers to their group members. The wealth of wisdom they’ve brought into our ministry is hard to overstate.
As many of our churches move into a season of rebuilding, this is a wonderful time to build a list of empty nesters that you can invite into your young adult ministry. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Ben Baxley serves as the Young Adult Pastor at First Baptist Hendersonville, Tennessee. Ben, his wife Christine, and their two sons live in the Hendersonville area, and he holds an M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Connect with him on Twitter @ben_baxley.