At the African American Fellowship Conference in Sugar Land last week, Reverend Tomiko Jones of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield outlined a few important points churches need to make in regards to reaching the 21 to 39-year-old age group.
The biggest discrepancy in the modern church is older members wanting younger people more involved with the church, but not knowing how to make it happen. This is an across-the-board crisis of churches as average ages increase with church attendance decreasing. The answer to this is reaching out to young adults.
As a recent college graduate, I fall squarely in that category. I want so badly to be given a level of responsibility and to have someone help me find a place to serve. Certainly, I am not alone in this need. Young adults are all seeking to find where they belong and crave others to treat them like adults.
"We have to be intentional about finding the lost people in our congregation," Jones said. Lost in this sense can literally mean lost in the sea of the congregation.
These twenty-somethings may not have grown up in church, and they are seeking to be known as individuals and to be treated like the adults they are. In my experience, this group may pretend to know what they're doing so as to not be embarrassed, but truly desire someone to come alongside them.
That's the key, Jones says–older members walking with the young adults rather than trying to be overly instructional. The goal should be a friendship, which helps the young adult see how to best serve–not an ongoing lesson.
Jones outlined things to keep in mind when working with this age group.
"Meet them where they are and listen to them," Jones said. This group is flexible, thrives on social media and fellowship is the best way to reach them.
A way Jones found success with her group was by having them plan their events. By giving them responsibility, they were more willing to put forth the effort and draw others to the event. It empowered them and expanded their young adult ministry.
At 23-years-old, my prayer for myself and my fellow young adults is for us to be motivated enough to jump into a church, but also that the older members would walk with us in love. We are, after all, the future leaders of the church.
Linley McCord, a student at Texas A&M University, is currently serving as a joint Communications Intern for both the Baptist Standard and the Texas Baptists.