Practical Ways to Buck the Trends and Grow Young
Last week, Drew Rick-Miller shared research on the importance of adults in the church who invest in the lives of young people. Read the first part of this article here.
What else can we do in order to Grow Young at WRPC? Growing Young provides many ideas – and they don’t require us to exude hip-ness or invest huge sums of money or adopt a mega-church mentality. I encourage you to read these two pieces on the book for a quick summary (see here and here) of their findings. Here are some suggestions I would offer based on this book, Sticky Faith, the National Study of Youth and Religion, and other resources I have read:
- Adults – get involved in the lives of those younger than you. Help youth, help college students, help young adults, even help parents of children if you are uncomfortable with young ones. Invite them to lunch after church, go to their dance recital or bake ‘em cookies during midterms. Be that person or couple that has rightly earned the label of ‘awesome’ or ‘the best’.
- Invest –The folks at Ministry Architects, a church consulting group, recommends that healthy ministries budget $1,000 per child and youth per year. Due to some forward-thinking individuals in our past who cared deeply about Youth Ministry, West Raleigh has a generous restricted fund that supplements our annual budget. In addition, we can challenge every committee, team and group at WRPC to commit to investing at least 10% of their budget and activities in a manner that engages younger folks.
- Include – Growing Young uses the images of keys, in the sense of give young people keys. One church they interviewed said, “Anything an adult can do on Sunday morning, a teenager can do.” That is, give young people the keys to church to be equal partners in ministry, not just token jobs while we adults do the real work. They love to serve, to have their contributions taken seriously, and, like us, to know that they are making a difference for something of greater value. They want this world to be a better place, maybe more so than we adults, and most importantly they have the talent to do the work and do it well.
- Challenge – Young people have excellent sensors for superficiality. They want genuine belief that asks hard questions and does not sugarcoat faith and life. They want honest talk about doubt, sex, science, other faiths, politics, and the many social justice issues that concern so many of us. They don’t want Sunday School simplicity, but the kind of depth that we adults need and crave. So let’s ask tough questions and let them journey with us as we seek answers, especially to those questions where we don’t have easy answers. Importantly, their answers may be every bit as good if not better than our own.
- Warmth – Youth want love just like the rest of us. I expect WRPC families are among the best at providing the support their children need, but it can only help if we join them, expanding that definition of family from biological to congregational. If we do this well, I wouldn’t be surprised if we begin to find those young people who are not getting the love they need from their biological family – if we can provide it… it gives me chills to think what that will mean for the Kingdom.
The Youth Ministry Design Team is devouring this research as we try to make recommendations that will improve the likelihood that WRPC will be the kind of healthy church that incorporates our youth. That, in and of itself is justification for this work. But if you need greater motivation, Growing Young suggests (a claim they think might be true) that churches that successfully engage young folks will grow across the entire age spectrum. They suggest the very vitality of American churches is tied to our ability to grow young. Will that be WRPC? If each of us invests in our youth both personally and collectively as a family of faith, we have a good chance of that happening. If we put our youth first, we might just be one of those unique congregations that bucks the demographic trends as we grow young together. And we might even hear a lot of young folks call us ‘awesome’ or ‘the best’ as they grow in faith to love and serve the Lord.