4 Game Changing Partnerships You Can Make In Young Adult Ministry

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Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shares about how “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” 

If you’ve been a ministry leader for any length of time, you’ve probably seen an expert tweet something like: “Never do ministry alone.” Or, maybe you’ve been to a conference with a theme of Together is better. Have you ever wondered practically how to build intentional relationships with others who share the same passion? Do you wish you had strategic partnerships that were mutually beneficial? Then, this article is for you! If you want to take your ministry to the next level, here are a few game changing partnerships you can apply to your setting: 

1.    A Local Church. 

In business and leadership classes, they teach about core competencies of an organization. A competency is something that you as a leader or your organization or ministry do really well. The distinctive competency by definition is the thing that sets you apart from every other group. What are you the best in the world at?

I believe for a young adult ministry, the distinctive competency is that the ministry is a part of the local church.Most pastors envision their church thriving by reaching the next generation. This is a win-win for you, because chances are if you are reading this, that is a passion of yours as well. College students and young adults add a lot of value to any church. They are both energetic and passionate as the now generation and filled with potential as the next generation! 

Whether you find yourself leading a young adult ministry within a church or you may lead a para-church ministry, you will want a strong partnership with the local church. We see in scripture a theme and a case for unity and for working together. In terms of adding value, some things that the local church offers to each college or young adult ministry are: funding, volunteers, prayer warriors, and facilities. 

2.    Youth Group(s). 

There are so many reasons why to partner with your churches youth pastor and youth group. It’s common I think to stay in your lane and do what you do well. Some call this a silo approach to ministry. A value I’ve seen a number of churches have is we>me. This means we is greater than me. The whole church (every generation) is greater than age group. Our combined efforts as a staff team are more powerful than my own individual efforts. 

Here are a couple of ways I’ve seen this done well:

•Team Preaching: as a young adult pastor, I’ve often tapped into the resource of our church’s youth pastor to communicate to our group when I needed a break. Similarly, often times a youth pastor may go on a camp, missions trip, or vacation and needs a communicator who relates to their students to fill the pulpit. 

•Transitioning high school graduates into campus ministries & eventually young adult ministry. This doesn’t happen by accident! Barna group has their famous and recent statistic that 60% of students who grow up in the church walk away by the time they reach college. My hypothesis is that a lot of that has to do with us working together to champion the life stage transition steps of young people! 

3.    Campus Ministries. 

This goes both ways. As for me, I am a young adult pastor within a local church. I intentionally partner with and serve anyway I can within our local campus ministries. I also look for ways that I can include or rather invite in campus ministry leaders as well as students into the process of our local church and our young adult ministry. 

A few examples:

·     Churches at times are able to offer funding in monthly support or cash towards ministry on campus. 

·     Local churches have volunteers who are just waiting to be asked to serve within a ministry on campus where they get to make an eternal impact and invest into the lives of students. 

·     Campus ministries have the opportunity to add fuel the vision and mission of the local church. 

·     The wave always starts in the student section. So why wouldn’t pastors want to invite the next generation into their worship services, volunteering ministries, missions trips, and the life-blood of the church overall? 

One of the best things we can do in terms of student discipleship is help to connect them to a local church during their college career. The friendships and relationships on campus have an expiration date many times of within about 4 years. However, they can remain grounded and connected. In his book, Small Group University, Rev. Brad Lewis talks about how the trend is that 5 years after college graduation, only 20% of college students are still serving Jesus. The stakes are high for churches and college ministries to work together! 

4.    Your Community.  

I will give some ideas here, but every community is different. You will need to contextualize these into your setting. We see a beautiful model for reaching our community in Acts 1:8. First in Jerusalem (your city), then Judea (surrounding area), then Samaria (greater region), and to the ends of the earth (global missions).

A few areas to consider are: 

  • High Schools

  • College Campuses

  • Local Businesses

One partnership in our ministry that has been unbelievable is with Chick-Fil-A. A few years ago, they opened a restaurant in our city. Our church staff, being the Jesus-chicken loving people we are, frequented this location and posted about it on social media (giving them some great visibility). With no expectation at all, they have donated hundreds of chicken sandwiches to our church for different events in our community! 

My challenge for you is to be the initiator. You are the one reading this so that means you can do something about it. You can’t expect others to reach out to you first if you’re not willing to do this yourself. Young Adult Ministries need to build intentional relationships and strategic partnerships with local churches, youth ministries, college campus ministries and other businesses in their community. Many times, young adult leaders feel like they are on an island as the most under-resourced, under-connected, and under-funded ministries. 

Remember, we are better together! 

What stories or examples of partnerships do you have? Comment below! 

 

Measuring Success in Young Adult Ministry

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Have you ever wondered how to measure success in ministry? Maybe you’re in a spot where you’re newer to your role or just changed roles. It’s easy to get hung up on measuring factors that don’t truly matter. That’s why I wrote this article!

Some of the easiest ways to measure success when it comes to ministry, historically, have been:

Attendance and audience size: How many people show up and sit in the seats? Naturally, we should count those who come because souls matter. However, names matter so much more than numbers. Your success as a ministry leader is not contingent on an up or down night numerically. The one mattered to Jesus just as much as the crowds. He is the One who taught us to leave the 99 to find the one.

Affirmation, applause, and approval: What are people saying that is positive? In ministry, a dangerous thing is living for the approval of man. After all, God is the one who should be getting the glory! The more time you spend with God and serve faithfully in ministry, you’ll learn to receive positive feedback and constructive criticism equally and gracefully.

These are not inherently wrong to measure, but if they are all we measure, we are missing out on the true mission. I want to see churches and ministries begin measuring success in the way Jesus measured success.

Some ways to measure success you may not have thought about before are:

  • Availability: Will your college students or young adults give up their plans on a Friday night to be a part of your community? Are they willing to come and serve locally? Do they engage in global and local missions? I’ve often tried to build ministry around those who are the first to show up and the last to leave.

  • Activation: Many ministries defer the work of the ministry to the pastors and select leaders. Ephesians 4 is a model that stirs my soul and outlines my role as a leader. I’m biblically mandated to equip volunteers to do the work of the ministry. A good chunk of our time should be spent helping those we serve to discover their spiritual gifts, develop them over time, and deploy them regularly.

  • Alumni: Are you sending people into full-time ministry, missions overseas, or influencing the marketplace? College ministry and young adult ministry both have a natural expiration date. At times, it’s one semester, two years, maybe four years. What I love is that four years can impact the next forty!

I recently transitioned out of a role I served as the young adult pastor at a church for 5 years, and now my wife and I are planting a campus ministry. One of the things I thanked God for from my time at the church and wrote in my journal was every single name of people I knew had been called overseas with missions, or to serve in full-time ministry, as well as those I know have remained on fire with a passion to work in the marketplace!

  • Assimilation: How do you and how does your ministry do in helping new people connect to friends, small groups, and volunteering? We have all been the new kid on the block at school, work, or church. I think some of the best things we can do as pastors and leaders are to learn people’s names, remember them, and connect them to their future friends! I call it the ministry of connection.

I want to challenge you to take some time alone or with your team to re-evaluate your metrics. Here are a few thoughts you can work through: What do you need to start measuring that you haven’t been in the past? What do you need to stop measuring has been controlling your thought life in ministry? Naturally, some things we overemphasize … other things can just as easily be overlooked.

3 Tips To Help Young Adults Find Financial Freedom

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Over the past seven years, I have met with countless college students, young adults and young couples who are drowning in debt and struggling financially due to student loans. So when I completed my master’s degree I decided to focused my capstone project on this topic… and graduated debt-free. Our team surveyed 850 current college students from over 200 different colleges & universities in over 40 states. Scholastic debt is a huge problem. We compiled these findings into the book Debtless now available on Amazon.

We found that over 39% of current college students have no idea how much they have taken out in student loans. Based on our research, current students have taken on an average of $26,659 and haven’t graduated yet! The range of responses was anywhere from $0 to as much as $280,000 for an individual. Nearly 40% of students surveyed said that they were not informed about any alternatives to student loans.

This generation of students really needs some financial wisdom and encouragement. The goal isn’t only about money and simply becoming wealthy, the goal is that young people would capture God’s heart and know His voice. We don’t want debt to hold students back from following God’s direction for their life!

Here are 3 keys that can help minimize student loans and they can help you personally as a college ministry leader or young adult pastor in addition to the students you pastor and lead:

1. Talk about money.

The bible talks a lot about money and clearly, consistently communicates that less debt is better than more debt. We should, too! In our sermons, in our small groups and in one-on-ones; not just about tithing- but also all about biblical financial stewardship!

Scripture is our guide in this. Jesus talked more about money than any other singular topic and He often said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Talking about money is more than talking about finances; it’s talking about our hearts, our dreams, our passions and our desires. Debt is a killer of those dreams- and we know our young people love to dream big. Let’s help equip young people towards success through teaching about financial freedom.

One of the powerful principles in the book of Proverbs is: “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (22:7). That’s the whole idea of debtless. The less debt you have, the better. Can you imagine what you could do without debt holding you back?

2. Encourage work.

No false advertisements here! There are ten tips to help students minimize debt in our book, Debtless. The one that made the biggest difference in my life was working part-time while I was in college. This afforded me the money to pay my tuition.

I’ve heard it said like this:  The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately. In order to reach your dreams – financial, spiritual or ministry-related – you have to work hard!

It’s in your best interest not to pay interest. You will either pay less now or more later. This requires discipline, intentionality and sacrifice. It’s unpopular. Dave Ramsey, who is a personal financial expert says: “Live like no one else now so later you can live and give like no one else.”

3. Model Budgeting

One layer deeper than just working a job and earning money is budgeting that income and living on less than you are making.

Plan to Give Some Money Away. Am I talking about giving? Yes! Generously? Absolutely! I know that the last thing you’d expect to hear me say as a person who’s writing about taking on less debt in college is to give some money away! I would rather see you give away money you do have than spend money you don’t have.

Habits start today. You need to form, develop and train your giving muscles while you are young. The more you practice generosity; the more it becomes a habit. We are living in a world today where our generation is the most moved by social justice and humanitarian causes, but so many people have created a situation where they can’t give because of debt.

Can you imagine the type of difference a generation of people financially free can make in this world?! 

When debt isn’t holding you back, you can give, support ministries and missionaries on a monthly basis and so much more!

·       Save For The Future
Equally important to giving and generosity is saving for the future. One way I like to look at saving is it is giving towards your own personal future. Some of the financial advisors and wealth managers I have spoken with recommend for individuals to save anywhere from 10-20% of their income for short or long term goals. 

·       Live On The Rest
When it comes to budgeting, you know better than anyone what your own monthly expenses are such as housing, tuition, groceries, transportation, and travel. A big part of financial stewardship is recognizing that God provides for our every need. One of our responsibilities in return is living within our means. There are so many tools such as budgeting forms, apps and even notebooks and journals that can help guide you and your students along the journey towards being Debtless.

Our role as college and young adult ministry leaders is that we have a unique opportunity to help students make wise and God honoring financial decisions while they are in college. They have such an advantage, in that they are young. Youth has resilience. Young people don’t have to wait until they are old like Scrooge was. They don’t have to wait to have their life flash before their eyes and with the pain and sting of regret in order to make some adjustments. Our role is that we can coach them towards financial health and stability for a lifetime of following Jesus as faithful stewards!

 

3 Ways to Leverage Social Media for Your Young Adult Ministry

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Have you ever noticed how often your students are on their phones? Have you ever wished you could find ways to connect more frequently and on a deeper level with those in your ministry? Maybe you find yourself struggling to engage with and connect with people within your ministry outside of your gatherings. If you answered yes to any of those questions, this post is for you!

Since social media is not going away anytime soon, here are a few ways to use social media to increase your ministry effectiveness:

1.    Build your brand.

At a minimum, social media can be leveraged as a communications tool for your group. At the maximum, social media can go as far as becoming an evangelism and outreach tool. Today’s generation of college students and young adults are used to publishing and creating content. Chances are, someone in your ministry is into graphic design, photography, or videography. Think about it this way, our role as Ephesians 4 leaders is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Some people are gifted in this area and are just dying to be asked. Consider these ways to create content that builds your brand:

  • Create a logo or image that resonates with your target audience.

  • Post updates during your events. Tell your audience what is happening during worship gatherings, Bible studies, sermons, outreach events, and more.

  • Post pictures of small groups and serving in the community.

  • Post a weekly or daily Bible verse.

  • Follow other ministries and ministry leaders to learn ideas from them. If you see someone doing things really well, it may inspire unique ideas for you as well.

2.   Build community. 

When social media first became a thing, it was all about personal profiles. After a while, there was a trend for nonprofits and companies alike to use “pages” instead of profiles. Currently, a lot of ministries are finding success in building their community by using group features on Facebook and Instagram. Before long, this trend will change as well.

Social media is constantly changing. We can’t get stuck in one way of using technology. Though our mission remains the same, our strategies must be flexible to change.One advantage we have in working with young adults is they are fluent in the digital world of technology. For this reason, we should never be far behind on the latest ideas.

Two ways to building community via social media include 1.) Promoting weekly meetings or events (comments, shares, and even paid ads) and 2.) Leverage group messages (Instagram) and group features (Facebook).

3.    Build interaction and engagement. 

Each week has 168 hours in it. Even the most involved students will come to your ministry 5-10 hours per week (at most) for services, small groups, and events. Social media is one of the ways to create interaction outside the walls of your church or ministry. It’s one thing to post information only, but it’s another to ask a question in each post. You might also run a poll to find out what toppings people want at the ice cream party.

Two ways to interact and engage young adults with social media include:

  • Invite people who are good at social media into the process. Our ministry has quarterly outreach events, and we wanted to leverage social media for promotion leading up to the event, create buzz at the event, and celebrate all God did after the event. We needed help running our accounts for this, and we found one person who had the most fun they’ve ever had by running our profiles. He did the best job at it, too!

  • Use giveaways to create buzz. I’ve seen some ministries that will give away Starbucks for a year to one lucky person who RSVPs to the event on Facebook.

Now what? Some leaders will want to create a personal account and begin using it if they never have before. A second group might consider creating an account specifically for their ministry. Others will want to apply these principles to take their existing accounts to the next level.

We also want to hear from you. What ways have you seen social media impact your ministry? Which avenues of social media have you found most successful?

Overcoming Challenges in Young Adult Ministry

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Whether you’re in your first few weeks of ministry, or you’re a long-time ministry veteran, there are some inherent issues that young adult ministry leaders face. I want to share with you some of the challenges you can expect to face in young adult ministry and, more importantly, give you some helpful tips to overcome these challenges.

Some of the most obvious challenges I see young adults facing are:

  • Time management struggles,

  • Longing for friends and community, and

  • Having trouble integrating their faith with life.

We can (and should) look at these obstacles as opportunities.

On the other hand, leaders of young adult ministries find themselves facing their own unique challenges:

  • Transience: Rick Warren says it best—ministry can be like “preaching to a parade.” And, if he says that about a full church, I believe the young adult ministry equivalent is like trying to watch a movie that’s played in fast forward.

  • Commitment: When I sat with a room full of college and young adult pastors recently, they shared the number one challenge they face is the lack of commitment and inconsistent attendance from young adults.

  • Resources: This can be money, staff, and so on. I recently sat with a mega-church staff member who shared with me how his church has 9 full-time youth pastors, and he is the only minister (and part-time) leading young adults. Sometimes, it can feel like we are isolated, misunderstood, under-funded, and overlooked.

We’re not meant to be passive participants in our churches and ministries. Instead, we are called and chosen by God to be passionate pioneers who take things further than they have ever been—to be strong and courageous in the Lord and the power of His might.

I’ve found strength, courage, and encouragement in the Old Testament narrative from Numbers 13-14 that describes Joshua and Caleb. They were facing some intense obstacles and insurmountable odds as they led a group of Israelites through a season of transition.

There were a few things Joshua and Caleb did as spiritual leaders then that I believe God is also calling young adult ministry leaders to do now as well:

  1. Caleb had a different spirit. There were twelve spies who Moses commissioned to go and study the promised land of Israel. Ten came back with a negative report. Something was different about Caleb and Joshua, which allowed them to live long enough to enter in that promised land. We are also called to have a different spirit about us. May our attitudes be positive and not pessimistic. May we look at the giants we are facing and know that we need not fear but that we will see these enemies fall.

  2. Joshua and Caleb gave a good report. We get to raise up leaders, make disciples of all nations, and impact lives. And, in doing so, we get to share positive praise reports and testimonies. If we pay attention, the stories of transformed lives will always be happening. People are facing difficulties all week, and they are longing to hear good reports. Let’s be prepared to bring hope and good news! Notice also, the emphasis on Joshua and. They didn’t do their ministry alone, and neither should we!

  3. They lived long enough to enter the promised land. The God-given vision for your ministry that seems impossible takes staying with the trial longer to see it become a triumph. One of the keys for Joshua and Caleb was their perseverance. In her book, Grit, Angela Duckworth describes grit as passion multiplied by perseverance, or the ability to stick with things longer. In our ministries, I believe we are called to be like Joshua and Caleb, to stay with the problems we are facing long enough to see the promise on the other side.

What are some of the challenges you are facing in leadership? 

What would overcoming look like in your setting?

 

 

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Young Adult Ministry

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Prior to launching a college campus ministry, I spent the last 7 years on staff at a church as the young adult pastor. From my vantage point, more churches than ever are making intentional efforts to reach 18- to 30-year-olds. Across the nation, a variety of models are working to engage and equip young adults to become a part of the lifeblood of the local church.

When it comes to young adult ministry, I haven’t invented anything. The focus is to go make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. However, there are some things most successful young adult ministries do. Here are 10 steps to launching an effective young adult ministry:

1. Find Someone to Champion the Ministry

Someone needs to step up and be the leader. This could be a volunteer or a part-time or full-time staff member. I’ve seen churches where the youth or worship pastor also serves in the young adult capacity. I know of one church where the lead pastor and his wife host the young adult small group in their home, personally discipling this age group. 

Maybe God is nudging you to be a champion for this cause in a leadership or support role. If so, start a conversation with your pastor.

2. Start With Prayer

Nehemiah, the King of Persia’s cupbearer, cried, prayed and fasted when he heard that Jerusalem was in ruins. When I started, I felt like Nehemiah, not knowing what to do. I couldn’t bear the thought of America’s young adults becoming a forgotten and unchurched generation.

A few people at our church gathered one night to pray. After the prayer meeting, we decided to get together over the next few weeks. After a few times of just praying, we began meeting as a small group — to regularly pray, read God’s Word, eat, and engage in open discussion just like the Early Church did in Acts 2:42-47.

Individual and corporate prayer times are the birthplace of burdens, dreams, visions and promises from God for our lives. Our group began with a few young adults on our knees, calling out to the God of heaven and asking Him for wisdom on what to do and whom to invite. 

Since that time, the group has grown exponentially. I can trace everything back to our starting point — on our knees. There’s something about two or more gathering together before God, asking Him what He wants.

3. Build a Team

You’re on the winning team — God’s team! It comforts me to know that I’m never alone. At the end of the Great Commission, Jesus makes a great promise: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

What if you could build a dream team to reach the next generation of young adults in your community for Christ? What positions would you need to fill? Business writer Jim Collins calls these “the right seats on the bus.” Who from your church would fit best in each seat on your bus?

This is where you pray the right people onto your team, asking God to send workers for the harvest (Luke 10:2). As you pray and God puts people on your heart, begin conversations with them. Share a compelling vision, starting with why: Why would someone want to volunteer? 

4. Serve a Vision

So, you feel called to pioneer a new young adult ministry. That is awesome! It’s time to think and pray about what this ministry could and should look like. Is there a picture you can see or imagine of the ministry’s future? That is your vision. Visions are visual.

If you’re in a local church ministry, you’re there to support the existing vision of the lead pastor. Even if God gave you a vision, you’ll want to run it by the leader of the church. As a support staff or volunteer, your vision should always complement the church’s vision —  not compete with it. 

5. Find Mentors

Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise.” There’s value in seeking counsel from more experienced people. Don’t settle for just any person who’s older than you. Find someone who has been where you want to go and can offer advice to help you get there. 

Find the experts. Read their books. Reach out to them. Call, email, and chat over a meal if you can. That’s what mentoring is all about. Ask as many questions as possible. Learn from their successes, failures and observations.

I couldn’t bear the thought of America’s young adults becoming a forgotten and unchurched generation.

These mentors don’t have to be people you know personally. Paul — yes, that Paul — is one of my favorite mentors.

Go find your own mentor who has been where you want to go. Ask questions. Learn from that person’s successes and failures. His or her wisdom is more valuable than you realize. 

6. Create Regular Small Groups

Consistency is an important part of creating a successful young adult ministry. The lives of college students, 20-somethings and young couples are transient. That means ministry leaders who focus on this age group need to be pillars of consistency in the midst of a changing culture. One way you can do this is by setting up small groups.

My ministry uses small groups — communities of people who meet weekly to support one another, study and discuss the Bible, and pray. Consistency matters because having a stable group of people builds trust and brings confidence to your life, despite an uncertain life stage. 

Discipleship results happen best when groups meet consistently and intentionally, just like fitness results are most effective with scheduled, frequent gym visits. 

For more information about building great small groups, check out Small Group University by Brad Lewis, the Chi Alpha director at North Dakota State University.  

7. Identify and Equip Natural Leaders

I love to watch people magnets — you know, those who naturally attract and engage others. Every ministry has natural-born “people people.” They may not have official titles or roles on your team, but you can bet they’re inviting dozens of people over for a bonfire or movie tomorrow. They’re the thermostats who change the temperature in a room. 

The person leading a young adult ministry can’t do it alone, and these people magnets are an essential part of ministry to young adults. If you recognize them in your own ministry, encourage them! Call out their leadership skills, and ask them to keep engaging others. 

If your ministry needs some of these people, pray for God to send them. He can use them to expand the influence of your young adult ministry and raise up and empower other leaders in your ministry. They will turn your ministry into a community.  

8. Bring Everyone Together

As your group outgrows a living room or table in a restaurant, it’s time to consider a space for larger gatherings. A large gathering is an on-ramp and invitation into deeper community. Some meet weekly or monthly, and others quarterly. Find the model that works for you; there are so many thriving young adult ministries.

I don’t know what’s best for your ministry. It may be formal or informal, programmed down to every detail, or more unplugged. As long as you start with prayer, God will lead you to pastor and care for people’s souls, no matter the format. That’s what matters most.

9. Partner With Youth Ministry

Within your church, think beyond just your department. As a college pastor or young adult ministry leader, you should develop a great working relationship with the youth pastor. You can work together to help and sharpen one another. 

Think strategically about transitions: youth to college to young adults. Team up with your youth leaders to facilitate these transitions. The students they currently lead will one day become young adults. 

As a church body, are we helping equip young people to thrive spiritually when they get to college? Do we know where they are going after high school, whether to college, a branch of the military, or a workplace? If so, can we connect them with campus ministries and churches in those places?  

10. Develop Key Relationships

Get to know other people who are passionate about reaching young adults. Build bridges of connection with local college pastors and ministries. Chi Alpha and other campus ministries exist to reach students on college and university campuses. 

Young adult ministry leaders should help students make ministry connections so they can successfully transition into the local church during and after college.

Think of a few people locally who share your passion for young adult ministry. They might be campus ministers or young adult pastors. Get together with them for coffee, and partner in prayer for a move of God in your city. This is so much bigger than you, your ministry or your community. It is about the kingdom of God.

Can you imagine what would happen if every church in America had a successful young adult ministry? What would our world look like if every church had at least one young adult small group, where young people could find hope in Jesus and encounter life-changing, Christ-centered community?

As today’s young people begin their adult lives, we can influence them for eternity. How will your church respond to this opportunity?