Our Ultimate Hope with Growing Young

Let's change the conversation about young people and the church.

Someone recently asked me, “What’s your greatest hope for the Growing Young project?” 

I had to pause for a moment. Not because I don’t have much hope, but because there is so much to be hopeful about. 

Kara, Jake, and our team at the Fuller Youth Institute have been so inspired by our work with the 259 congregations who opened their doors to our questions, probes, and at times expeditions right through their actual church doors. We’ve been mulling over big questions about churches young people love for the past four years, and we’re eager to share what we’ve discovered.

So I could have answered the question about our greatest hope for Growing Young by focusing on how we envision more and more churches involving and retaining young people in the congregational community.

Or our hope that more and more young people would not only discover churches they love, but also would discover Jesus in those churches through the living Spirit of God at work among the community. 

Or I thought about our hope to impact hundreds of thousands of churches across the country through resources and training in the years to come. 

But in that moment I was reminded of another hope, one that drives so much of what we do at FYI. We want to change the way the world sees young people. When I think about that, here’s my answer:

Our greatest hope for the impact of Growing Young is that when any adult in any church sees a teenager or emerging adult, their first response is NOT:

… to shrug their shoulders in ambivalence.

… to roll their eyes in distaste.

… to throw up their hands in bewilderment.

… to tear up in grief.

I’m convinced there is too much missed potential in too many churches because we tend to start with the negative. We get discouraged that our church might never change. We become cynical when we see young people leaving or look at our aging buildings and outdated models of ministry. We feel stuck. Then we project all that onto young people themselves. 

At FYI we envision a new reality.

Instead, when adults see young people, we hope their first response might become:

… to smile in welcome.

… to learn a name and listen to a story.

… to empathize with the challenges of becoming an adult today.

… to be inspired by their energy and ideas. 

… to be filled with hope about the potential of the church. 

In short, we want adults in congregations to see the possibilities when it comes to engaging young people, not just focus on the obstacles. And we want them to know that helping young people discover and love the church is not just a far-fetched dream. It can become a current reality.

We can’t wait to share with you what we’re learning. We think it can change the conversation about young people—in your church, and perhaps in your own head and heart. 

It’s time to unlock the potential and passion of young people in your community. Let’s do it together!

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