Over the past several months, a small group has been studying the book Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. The purpose of the book is to guide churches in examining how to create an environment that will attract and retain young people ages 15 – 29. The book highlights several qualities that generally appear in churches that are reaching and connecting with youth and young adults:
- Empowering and entrusting young people to perform ministry.
- Empathizing with young people instead of judging them.
- Proclaiming Jesus as the centerpiece of God’s story and living out His message in our daily life.
- Focusing on creating/maintaining warm peer and intergenerational relationships.
- Prioritizing young people and families everywhere in the church.
Enabling young people to be good neighbors locally and globally.
The authors of Growing Young stress that young people deal with three ultimate questions: “who am I?”; “where do I fit?”; and “what difference do I make?”. Churches need to assist young people in answering these questions relating to identity, belonging, and purpose. In doing so, we need to care enough about young people to try to understand their lives – both the good and the bad. In particular, we need to appreciate the fact that young people are much more likely to feel “extreme” stress than mature adults.
The last session of the book study was devoted to identifying some things that Hope Valley is doing well in relating to our young people as well as brainstorming some ideas concerning things we could do better or start doing. One idea was to invite young people who have recently graduated or are home from college to join the choir for the summer. This was done, and several young people are singing. I think you will notice the difference they make!
Knowing that our young people are both the present and the future of the church, it is imperative that we provide the fellowship, programs, and resources that encourage them to respond and participate. In order to do so, there might be a need to make some changes or start something new. While doing this, we also need to preserve our identity as an intergenerational congregation. Conversations have started, and we hope others will join the discussion as well in the days ahead. If there is interest, we will offer a second study of Growing Young in the fall. Please contact me if you would like to learn more.
– Mike Dossett