Churches of all sizes and locations face the challenges of reaching and keeping young adults. What can your church do? Following are excerpts from Tools for an Essential Church by Dr. Thom S. Rainer, Sam S. Rainer III, and Dan Garland.
To gain insight into ways to reach and keep young adults, LifeWay Research undertook a study. They used polling and one-on-one surveys to talk to more than 500 (churched and unchurched combined, from interviews and polling data) young adults across the country to better understand their mindsets and value systems.
The research discovered this about reaching young adults:
- Almost 90 percent of the unchurched 20 to 29 year-olds said they would be willing to listen if someone wanted to tell them about Christianity.
- Three of five younger unchurched respondents agreed they would be willing to study the Bible if a friend asked them to do so.
- More than 60 percent said they would attend a church if it presented truth in an understandable and relevant way.
The Bad News: The younger unchurched believe the church is too critical about lifestyle issues, full of hypocrites, and not necessary for spiritual development.
The Good News: The younger unchurched clearly indicate they are willing to dialogue about Christianity and Jesus.
These findings reinforce the truth that effective evangelism is done through building relationships.
Reach young adults by being relational
How can you heighten your church members' awareness of the need to build intentional relationships with the unchurched and dechurched?
Teach about the power of relationships and invitations. Nine out of 10 of unchurched or dechurched young adults who come to church and get connected to Christ do so because a friend, co-worker, relative, or neighbor invited them.
Teach and model developing relationships. Use the testimonies of those who came to Christ as a result of someone developing a relationship with them. Powerful testimonies energize and encourage others to get involved in building authentic relationships with those who need Christ and His church.
Find new and creative ways to connect believers with the dechurched and unchurched. This will not happen by doing the same thing the same way.
Getting outside the walls of the church buildings and engaging people with the gospel is absolutely essential. A novel approach is to get to know some people who are unchurched and ask them what it would take for them to come. You might then actually try some of the things the unchurched suggest.
If the unchurched come because of relationships, they stay because of new relationships. The questions the unchurched are asking is:
- Can I fit in here?
- Can I make friends?
- Will I be accepted?
Teach your people to build relationships with those who are new. To get a feel for this, send some of your leaders out to visit other churches in the area and report how they were greeted. Or, ask for the honest feedback of those who visit your church. Learn from responses and use them as teaching tools for your congregation.
Teach believers to develop relationships in everyday life - in their areas of passion and interests. The unchurched and dechurched are everywhere, but often invisible to us. Teach your people to open their eyes and look for opportunities to talk about your church and what you are doing to make a difference in the community.
The Key to reclaiming dechurched young adults: friends and family.
The bottom line is that family and friends should invite and pray for dechurched young adults. There is power in the invitation.