Eight Principles for Reaching and Growing Young Pros
Yesterday I described a bit of our young pros ministry at my church. Here are some practical, local church, real-world lessons we have learned about reaching, engaging, and growing young pros:
1. Be unambiguously clear and centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and make this THE big deal. Not church attendance, not moral change, not other important issues, but the main thing: the work of Christ for us. And related to that, tie the gospel to all of reality, not just our spiritual lives or our church lives. Young pros want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and there is nothing bigger than the gospel. We build our ministry on Gospel, Community, and Mission.
2. Teach the Bible, not current events. You don’t have to be a hipster to impact young pros, although you do need to understand their world. Note that the churches across America blowing up with young adults have pastors who teach the Bible verse by verse with Jesus at the center, often for an hour or more. This is not new; Chuck Smith did this at Calvary Chapel in California to thousands a generation ago in the Jesus Movement. Give them meat, give it in a way they can apply it, and keep lifting up Jesus. And as you teach the Bible be very careful to avoid confusing preferences you or others in today’s church may have with unchanging truth.
3. Value community. We already had one small group going in a home when I started leading the work that was led wonderfully by a SEBTS EDD grad who now serves elsewhere. We currently have five groups meeting Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, and will be starting one or two more soon. Many of these young pros have known church as” show up, do the minimum, and go home,” never really getting exposed to open, honest, close community.
4. Value generational (Titus 2) mentoring. Our focus has been on middle-aged couples investing in young adults. This has been so valuable to so many who come from broken homes or who are far from home. We have not had a lot of drama because we have wise leaders who lead well.
5. Give a global vision of the mission. Of the 80-100 or so regulars we have currently about 50 have been out of the country on international mission trips. Our church is all about nations, making this easy. We have sent out many to the nations as well.
6. Value the local church. We made it clear up front we were not starting a parachurch ministry that meets on a local church campus. Our main weekly gathering (even though not all can gather due to work, serving other roles in that time, etc) is Sunday morning. Every week I talk about the whole church and often reference our pastor’s sermon to help keep that connection close. We encourage service in children’s, youth, and other ministries.
7. Create a welcoming environment always aware of new people. We try to create a place where it is safe for unchurched, doubters, and skeptics to come as well as believers, seminarians, and others. We just had an agnostic from the Pacific Northwest come to Christ. We welcomed him when we called himself an agnostic, and we welcome him now. We try not to be subcultural, Christian bubble believers.
8. Give hope in big buckets. So many of these Millennials want to believe, want to matter, but are uncertain about stepping out and taking big risks because of their past experiences. Encourage, encourage, encourage! They need a vision for their life as big as Jesus’ call, encouragement that by the power of the Holy Spirit they can live that vision, and permission to do so!
Here are a few books I have found helpful to think better about the young pros generation and some I have written:
Dave Kinnaman. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Christianity.
Gabe Lyons. The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World.
Jonathan Merritt. A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.
Alvin Reid. As You Go.
________. Join the Movement: God Is Calling You to Change the World.
________. The Radically Unchurched: Who They Are and How to Reach Them.
Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason Hayes. Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and Churches That Reach Them.
James Emory White. The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated.