How to cut down on some of the frustration of building a ministry from scratch.
The process of starting a ministry to young adults from the ground up can be harrowing. The temptation can be to see the need for a young adult ministry and to immediately jump into starting a service or program. However, the problems faced by startup ministries often stem from a lack of planning and study. With a little bit of strategy, some preparation and a clearly defined plan you can cut down on some of the frustration of building a ministry from scratch.
The first step in starting a young adult ministry is to determine the demographics and church status of young adults in your community.
Three Types of Church Status
Young adults are in one of three types of church categories.
1. In your church—Every church has some young adults.
• Who are they?
• How many are there?
• What are their ages?
A church database may contain this information. If not, a short, written survey completed by all adults and returned on one of two consecutive Sunday mornings will quickly give this info.
2. In other churches—Perhaps only 20 percent of all churches, regardless of the denomination, have any type of ministry for young adults. Why should young adults in the other 80 percent of churches not benefit from the love, fellowship, teaching and personal growth that your ministry will bring to their lives? I am not advocating encouraging them to leave their home church. I am encouraging churches to think outside of their walls and structured ministry times so that young adults who do not have the benefit of targeted ministry in their church will have the option of attending.
3. In no church—There are hundreds of thousands of young adults across the country who are not in any church. The numbers and age of these people in your community can usually be obtained through the county courthouse or census bureau. These individuals should be part of your intended market also.
Once you know where to find the young adults in your community, you can determine the steps to begin your ministry.
Where to Begin
These suggested steps are not offered as a formula for sure success but are given as guidelines for beginning.
1. Pray about beginning this ministry.
Prayer will bring God’s thoughts and ideas into your mind and heart. Seek Him for the direction, leadership and purposes of this ministry before anything else.
2. Obtain permission and support.
Talk with the senior pastor and board/elders about beginning this ministry.
3. Determine the adult demographics in your church.
Have all adults complete and return a survey during the largest service of the week.
4. Analyze the survey.
You may be surprised at how many young adults you find! Twenty-one percent of church attenders are between the ages of 18 and 33.
5. Determine the marital demographics in your community.
These may be obtained online at www.census.gov or by contacting your county courthouse.
6. Develop a contact list.
Compile a contact list (name, email, phone number) from the survey and church database to connect with them regularly.
7. Organize a planning meeting.
Invite interested people in the target age to brainstorm and discuss the type, time and location of a potential weekly meeting/class. Don’t be afraid to spend a few months to plan direction before holding the first meeting.
8. Develop a mission statement.
Discuss what your mission statement will be.
9. Plan and host a large event.
Plan an event that will attract a large group of people within the target age you want to reach (retreat, dinner, social activity, seminar).
10. Establish a potential leadership team.
Look for and recruit a team of people who are passionate and dedicated to the idea of this ministry. Each person could/should eventually accept an area of responsibility and authority needed in the ministry.
11. Begin a weekly meeting/class.
It is important that momentum and regular opportunities for building friendships be established. Meeting only biweekly or monthly will not meet this need.
12. Get others involved.
People will support what they help to create! They need to own the ministry by helping to run it. Each leader should seek to involve others in their area of ministry.
13. Develop other ministries.
Other ministries could be started as leadership is developed. These could include Bible studies, small groups, young parent ministries and so on.
Once you have mapped out a plan for launching your ministry, you can begin to determine who will help you lead the group.
Leadership is probably the most crucial area of ministry to/with young adults. Without effective leadership, the ministry will fail. The director/pastor does not have the time or talent to do everything, and if he or she did, it would deprive the people of running the ministry. More than any other area in the church, there must be a regular emphasis on recruiting, training and motivating leadership.
Guidelines for the Director/Pastor
• Male or female top leadership is fine, since men this age will follow a qualified female easier than older boomer-aged men.
• Young person or married couple.
• Within 10 years of target age.
• Has a passion for this ministry.
• Will make time to spend with the people.
Guidelines for Recruiting Other Leaders
• Be specific/intentional in what you are looking for (activities director, publicity director, discussion leader, etc.).
• Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit.
• Look for strengths in a person who would fit the need.
• Develop a relationship with the potential leader before asking for a commitment.
• Ask the person to be involved for a specific period of time (six months is suggested).
• Give the person the responsibility and authority to do the job.
A job description could/should be provided for each person in leadership so an understanding of expectations, purposes, etc. is clear. When beginning a ministry, the leadership team should decide which positions are needed first and seek to develop these.
Determine Where Finances Will Come From
Help the church leadership to see the importance of including this ministry in the church budget. Many, if not most, ministry groups within the church are included in the church budget. Money can be given at the weekly meeting/class to offset this amount. Young adults will want to participate in supporting the group financially. Determine a Location
A ministry to young adults can be held on or off the church grounds. There are advantages either way. I believe a small church, by itself, should not attempt to build an ongoing ministry to young adults unless it is done one of two ways:
1) It is designed as an outreach ministry off the church grounds. By outreach, I am referring to a group that is not a Bible study format, but is a topical teaching and discussion format. This format attracts Christians who do not have a young adult ministry and unbelievers who do not go to a church at all, and it would provide enough people to sustain an ongoing group. Small churches simply do not have enough young adults in the congregation to maintain an “in-house” ministry. Because of the transient nature of young adults resulting in a high turnover (50 percent every six to nine months), there needs to be a continuous flow of new people coming into the group(s).
2) It is designed as a small group/Bible study. This format would attract mostly Christians who want to grow spiritually. The group would most likely stay small in a small church and would serve the purpose of prayer, study and fellowship.
Benefits of Meeting on the Church Grounds
1. More people exposed to your church.
2. Less storage problems.
3. Less setup, cleanup and transporting of tables, chairs, props, materials, etc.
4. More access to tables, chairs, props, etc.
5. Less time finding a meeting room.
6. Less risk of losing the meeting room.
7. No cost.
8. Fewer requests to announce other churches’ events.
9. More exposure of the ministry to your church.
Benefits of Meeting off the Church Grounds
1. More community exposure.
2. Attracts more unbelievers due to the neutral setting.
3. Attracts more believers who do not have a young adults’ ministry at their church.
4. Easier to build a citywide influence and image.
5. Easier to build relationships with other pastors.
6. Less denominational hang-ups in people’s minds due to the neutral setting.
7. More flexibility with schedule.
8. Any size church could sponsor the ministry.
9. Easier for several churches to sponsor it together.
The Small Church
Churches that decide they are too small or choose not to develop a young adult ministry should at the very least work to understand the issues young adults face and endeavor to portray open, accepting and informed attitudes and actions toward them.
If the Church is going to be effective in reaching, nurturing, discipling and training adults, young adults warrant our efforts, time, prayer and resources. The young adult population is too large to ignore, and the abilities and talents of these people are too valuable to waste.
A church of any size can and should minister to young adults, whether it be through an established group or individually. Through prayerful consideration and church and community demographic surveys, more of these people could become a ministry force in your church.
Dennis Franck is the national director of Single Adult Ministry for the
Assemblies of God. He is the author of Reaching Single Adults (Baker).