Young adults will be attracted to a church that embodies biblical teachings. | Read: 1 Timothy 4:12–16
Ministry with young adults is beset by difficulties, not the least of which is that this is the time when many people decide to check out of church for a while. Consequently, some churches all but write off young adult ministry—not wanting to waste resources on those who aren’t interested in church anyway.
Young adults may not be interested in church the way it’s always been done, but they need what the church has to offer. The central developmental tasks of young adults (18–30) are finding one’s place and purpose in the world and finding companions for life’s journey. A church grounded in Scripture can offer guidance for both tasks.
Pray: Psalm 103; Isaiah 55
These two passages speak to the issues young adults are dealing with. Psalm 103 tells us who we are with astonishing frankness: We are like grass—here today, gone tomorrow and not remembered when we’re gone (vv. 15–16). But it also tells us of our relationship to the everlasting Lord, Creator of the universe, who knows us by name and cares for us like a parent with tender mercy, cleaning us up after we’ve made a mess of our lives and wiping the slate clean so that we can pursue the good.
Isaiah 55 offers a word of hope to those searching for God, especially those who have wasted resources on that which doesn’t satisfy. The promises of God here are rich and freely available for those who call upon the Lord.
Engage in a lectio divina reading of Psalm 103 and/or Isaiah 55. Lectio divina is a way of reading Scripture that involves listening deeply for what God is speaking to us here and now through the Bible. Read the passage aloud slowly, noting what words resonate with you. What do those words touch in you? What images or thoughts come to mind? What do you think God might be trying to say to you? Immerse yourself in that Word; let it wash over you. Then respond to that Word. How will you need to live differently as a result of this Word?
Study: Lessons from a young leader
The Bible is the most important resource the church can offer to help young adults find their way through this challenging time of life. The Bible tells us who we are in the grand scheme of things, what our purpose is and who our people are. The church that embodies these biblical teachings is quite attractive to young adults, especially those who are looking for a place to belong that is meaningful and loving. Up against the shock of a cold, cruel world, they need the oasis of the church to guide them successfully into productive adulthood. Moreover, the church needs what young adults bring—their energy, passion and questioning of why we’re so quick to accept the ways of sin as “just the way it is.”
In 1 Timothy, a young leader in the early church is advised not to let others’ aspersions on his youth discourage him. Timothy is called to set an example of faith and to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhorting, to teaching.” Attending to the Word, Timothy is to “put these things into practice, devote [him]self to them, so that all may see [his] progress” (1 Timothy 4:12–13, 15). He is to nurture the gift that is in him, which was given to him through the preaching of the church and through his ordination to service (4:14).
Often young adults leave because there is no room in the church for their full participation. Their desire to make the world a better place comes from God. Older folks can mentor them in the way of faith, speaking about Scripture in a natural way as they work together.
Remember: Isaiah 55:3
“Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”
Live: Blessing the work
Get involved in a community work project and gather for prayer services on-site. Invite young adults to choose the Scripture from among some suggested passages that help make the connection between the Bible and the work project. Prepare cards of biblical blessings by writing benedictions such as those in Numbers 6:25–26, Romans 15:5–6, Romans 15:13 and 2 Corinthians 13:13. Workers can take a card and pray the blessing as they work, and hand them out to others at the end of the project.
– Teresa Lockhart Stricklen is an associate for worship in the PC(USA) office of Theology and Worship. This article is part of the Invitation to the Word initiative, encouraging Presbyterians to read, pray, study, remember and live Scripture.