Churches are both shrinking and aging as more young people disengage. Based on groundbreaking research with over 250 of the nation’s leading congregations, Growing Young provides a strategy any church can use to involve and retain young people. It profiles innovative churches engaging 15- to 29-year-olds that are growing–spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and numerically. Packed with ideas, Growing Young shows ministry leaders how to position their churches to reach younger generations in a way that breathes life into the whole church.
The authors outline six strategies essential to engaging young people:
- Unlock Keychain Leadership: Keychain leaders entrust others with access and authority, and empower all generations including teens and emerging adults with their own metaphorical “set of keys” to help influence and shape the direction of the church.
- Empathize with Today’s Young People: This means “feeling with young people” as they grapple with existential questions of identity, belonging, and purpose; as they experience “systemic abandonment” due to divorce and the self-absorbed adults around them; and as they act out a desire for connection through social media.
- Take Jesus’ Message Seriously: The authors were struck by how, in the churches studied, “Jesus reigns over poor theology and his words ring true for young sojourners hungry for life-giving direction.” One young interviewee said, “The goal for our church is not really effectiveness with young people, but serving and following Jesus. And young people like me are attracted to churches that want to do that.”
- Fuel a Warm Community: “Warm is the new cool” in these congregations, where authenticity triumphs over worship style or a multitude of programs. Young people who participated in the research praised their churches for “warm” attributes, such as welcoming, belonging, accepting, hospitable, and caring.
- Prioritize Young People (and Families) Everywhere: Churches in the study revealed a disproportionate prioritization of young people—an impulse that, rather than excluding older generations, breathed life into the entire congregation. As one pastor put it, “Everyone rises when you focus on young people.” Involving young people in every ministry has allowed these churches to thrive with authenticity and intergenerational relationships.
- Be the Best Neighbors: The authors found that in churches growing young, the community accepts the difficult task of offering young people a thoughtful path to neighboring well. They provide opportunities for teens and emerging adults to serve others, pursue social justice, find their calling, interact with popular culture, and respond to heated cultural issues.
There are resources, tools, and a heap of ideas for how you and your community could grow young. http://churchesgrowingyoung.com/