We need young adult ministry now

Steve Argue, PhD Image Steve Argue, PhD | Feb 25, 2022

Hey, ministry leaders who support young adults.

You know who you are.

You're the youth leaders who keep supporting your high school graduates even if this work goes beyond your job descriptions.

You're the family pastors trying to show that young adults and congregations really need each other.

You're the part-time young adult ministry leaders trying to activate full-time dreams on a shoestring budget.

You're the volunteers who hang in there with young adults when others often forget them.

You are ministry leaders who identify as young adults yourselves, trying to not only serve your peers but also navigate your own spiritual journeys.

We see you. In fact, we’ve been listening closely to you.

For the past five years, our team at the Fuller Youth Institute has engaged in hundreds of conversations with young adult ministry leaders just like you through research cohorts, surveys, and focus groups. We’ve invited young adults and congregations to have fresh conversations about young adults’ spiritual journeys and the ways in which they say they need churches the most.

The collective longing we all share is the desire to for more life-giving ministry with young adults, right now.

A new vision for young adult ministry

From our research, we heard consistently from young adults that they’re searching for support from trusted people but don't have the luxury to wait until faith communities get their acts together by figuring out who young adults are, what they care about, or what they need. Young adults' lives are moving fast, so they need churches to catch up in order to show up.

They need

you need,

we need,

young adult ministry now.

Four realities about today’s young adults that start you in the right direction, right now

Let’s make intentional, reliable ministry shifts that bring out the best in our young adults and our congregations. You can start right now by reflecting on these four important realities that young adults experience and faith communities need to know.

Young adults' paths toward adulthood will be different than yours was

The familiar path older and middle-class generations typically followed included high school, college/training, marriage, and family. This is probably the assumed, even expected trajectory parents, extended families, communities, and churches work toward and pray for on behalf of young adults today.

Yet this once-linear path no longer captures the varied trajectories for most. Today, young adults face more choices, challenges, and opportunities on their road to adulthood, requiring more time and new forms of support.

Reflect: How might your assumptions about young adults impact your perceptions of them (and ministry to them)?

Most young adults want to be faithful

In conversation with young adults connected with church, we've learned that many want to be faithful to God and to live lives that matter. Yet their spiritual quests can sometimes look and feel unfaithful to some as they question, doubt, debate, challenge, change their minds, and form their own opinions.

These processes of “faithing” are necessary work as they take responsibility for their lives and, often, make their faith their own. Young adults want reliable, meaningful faith that is able to keep up with their increasingly complex lives. Their quests to be faithful are intellectually challenging, emotionally draining, relationally disorienting, and incredibly vulnerable. And they want to know who will courageously journey with them.

Reflect: How might your ministry change if you believed young adults actually want to be faithful?

Your faith community has what young adults want: YOU

Many ministry leaders we worked with felt that they had nothing to offer young adults because they don't have a young adult ministry pastor or well-attended program. Too often, leaders’ focus on what they don't have blinds them to what they do have. Faith communities are rich in experience, wisdom, space, and sometimes even resources if they're willing to share them in a relationship with young adults. You have more to offer than you think.

Young adults are searching for wise mentors and communities who take them seriously, consider their ideas and support some of them, mentor them with their wisdom, mutually grow, and seek to make a difference together.

Reflect: What might happen if your church invested more in mentoring than programming for young adults?

For young adults, belonging includes influencing

Through research and our interactions with young adults, we've learned that their version of “belonging” means more than "fitting in." Young adults experience belonging when they feel supported and feel they can exert influence on their community.

This reality may feel hopeful, and likely a little scary, because it means that young adults want more than "being part of the community." They want to shape your community's future, too. It may mean that one of the most courageous commitments faith communities can make to young adults is to be willing to learn from young adults, and to change, too.

Reflect: What if your first step toward young adult ministry is committing to learn and change yourself?

Discover young adult ministry now

These four snapshots are just the start. Through our five-year Ministry Innovations with Young Adults research project[1], we've worked with 40 churches and hundreds of leaders, engaging thousands of young adults through gatherings, surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

Our findings have informed a brand-new book and training called Young Adult Ministry Now designed with you—the youth pastor, young adult ministry leader, and next-gen pastor—in mind. You'll be able to download this resource and equip yourself with essential information about young adults, reliable discipleship approaches, and practical steps to get you going right away.

We can't wait to connect with you as you spark a paradigm shift for a thriving young adult ministry in your unique community.

Young adults need you.

You need young adults.

Let’s inspire young adult ministry—right now.

Tweet this: Young adults' lives are moving fast. They need churches to catch up in order to show up. The Fuller Youth Institute has a new book and training resource that can help!

Young Adult Ministry Now

It’s time to take the mystery out of young adult ministry.

Lead vibrant young adult ministry with confidence and clarity. Get Young Adult Ministry Now resources and training today.

Learn More

[1] This five-year project was graciously funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc.

Steve Argue, PhD Image
Steve Argue, PhD

Steven Argue, PhD (Michigan State University) is the Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and Associate Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. Steve researches, speaks, and writes on adolescent and emerging adult spirituality. He has served as a pastor on the Lead Team at Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids, MI), coaches and trains church leaders and volunteers, and has been invested in youth ministry conversation for over 20 years. Steve is the coauthor and contributor of a number of books, including Growing With, 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult, and Joy: A Guide for Youth Ministry.

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