Let’s be honest, your young adults weren’t coming every Sunday pre-pandemic, and chances are many of them have drifted off over lockdown.
Us millennials have a well-earned reputation for being a little flakey - I get it! I’ve tried to convene my fair share of 20-something get togethers and small groups and none of them have lasted long…and the reason? Erratic attendance.
So if you can’t get 20-somethings to rack up a perfect attendance record, how do you connect them into your church…and more importantly, how do you help them find and follow Jesus?
Here are 3 things 20-somethings need to hear from your church right now:
1. “You’re in demand!”
You would be forgiven for thinking that if you couldn’t get a 20-something to come along to church every Sunday, you need to lower the bar and make it as easy as possible for them to drop in and out…
I wonder if the real problem is that we don't give them opportunities to be all in straight away - we leave people with the option of having one foot out of the pool for too long.
For my friends, church life isn’t compelling unless they can see a way to hit the ground running; connect throughout the week with others; get out of their comfort zone and make a difference. If we’re asking people to have a faith that rises on falls on Sundays, it may well fall. Asking people to go all in is far more compelling. Jesus knew this, the early church knew this, and deep down you and I know this. When experience shows us our time and service are in high demand, we recognise that it’s worth showing up.
Is your church helping people discover and live an ‘all in’ faith, or a slow burn, show up and go home thing? Does your fear of asking too much prevent you from asking anything at all?
When experience shows us our time and service are in high demand, we recognise that it's worth showing up
By the way, all in doesn’t look like them turning up in the building all the time. It might be getting involved in a project, being part of a group, mentoring teenagers, serving, listening to recommended podcasts, devouring the Sunday message and starting to apply it…It will probably be stuff that connects their faith with their everyday life.
Pssst...I know your volunteer reserves are running a little low - what if you started SPECIFICALLY appealing for 20-somethings to get involved in, say, kids work? Let them know they’re needed, and who knows…they might just come. Two birds and all that…
2. “You are not alone”
Besides the elderly population, no other demographic reports the levels of loneliness found amongst 20-somethings. Moving away from family, living alone or with difficult housemates, and isolation levels during the pandemic are all factoring into this.
And for 20-somethings, it’s not just about being alone; it’s being alone without the confidence that you can get by as you are. It’s anxiety about the future, confusion about bills, money worries, imposter syndrome, decision fatigue. If only there was a place where 20-somethings could find family they could lean on…
What practical ways could you demonstrate to the 20-somethings in your community that they are not alone? Here are a few suggestions I’ve seen churches do to start out:
hosting meals and cooking classes on a budget
putting on active social events in neutral spaces (find something to give these an edge!)
small group mentoring
practical teaching with 20-somethings in mind
getting involved in advice services, and running events and workshops to help with practical issues faced by 20-somethings
Even my most ‘grown-up’ friends look for surrogate parents in the places they are - one friend of mine works with a woman she affectionately terms her ‘work-mum.’ We’re still looking for someone to take us under their wing and help us take steps in the right direction!
And one more thing on this one…if you’re thinking of a 20-something as you read this who’s drifted out of church…get in touch with them now and check in!
3. “Nobody’s made it!”
Here’s one I wish churches were clearer on.
You may be inadvertently teaching and demonstrating a hierarchy of life-stages which makes 20-somethings feel like your church is not for them.
Many churches I’ve been to preach and plan with a well-to-do family unit in mind. Whilst churches have reasons for this (the majority of their congregation may be in this bracket), it gives the impression that if we're not there, we haven't 'made it' yet.
Preachers have unintentionally taught me, and alarmingly my non-christian friends, that the ideal scenario in the Christian life is to be married (to the opposite gender of course), with at least two kids, a mortgage you’re wisely paying off as a good steward, and an upcoming promotion in your stable job.
I can’t tell you the amount of times it's been highlighted to me in church that I won’t understand something because I don’t have children yet, or am in my twenties. Now, of course that’s true! I haven’t got a clue what it’s like to have children.
But remind me what age Jesus was when he got up in the middle of the night to change a nappy?
More importantly, in the Church, all our stories are incomplete. And our stories are not moving primarily in the direction of a nuclear family or the middle class lifestyle, but in the direction of the Kingdom of God. If there is anywhere on earth where a 20-something should feel not only welcome but in prime position to walk in obedience to God it is the Church.
Open the Bible looking for childless 20-somethings and you’ll find story after story of God using people in that stage of life for his extraordinary purposes. So please, preachers, point that out when it’s in the text to let the single 20-somethings in your congregation know Christianity is for them, too.
Open the Bible looking for childless 20-somethings and you'll find story after story of God using people in that stage of life for his extraordinary purposes.
So don't be careless with your assumptions about people's life circumstances, or even their life aspirations. Remind your 20-somethings and your whole church often that there is nothing they lack which excludes them from God’s amazing purposes. In the words of Jon Bon Jovi (Yes, we know who he is) - we’re halfway there - all of us.
So there you have it, three messages I think 20-somethings need to hear loud and clear from your church.
Let me know what you think, and if this was helpful for you we’d love to know how you’re implementing this!