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?