BY JESSY BURCAW |
Editor’s note: the author, Jessy Burcaw, is a 24 year-old young adult member of Unity Moravian Church in Lewisville, NC.
These days a lot of people are talking about young adults in church–how to get them there, how to keep them, and how to get them involved. Here are four tips that might be helpful as your church thinks about engaging young adults.
1) Don’t tell us it is our job to bring in more young adults
Well-meaning people have suggested that I need to bring my friends to church or have implied it’s my responsibility to fix the “young adult problem.” This logic has a few flaws. Most of my friends are Moravian and already belong to a church. My non-Moravian friends either have their own church to attend or are not interested in church. So if young adults don’t bring in more young adults what do we do? Listen to the young adults you do have. Realize it may not be a Sunday School class they want. You may have to try some new things and get out of your comfort zone a bit as a church. Young adults are happy to help but it’s not our job to fix the young adult problem just because we are young adults.
2) Don’t assume we all want to do the same thing
Often times when young adults come home from college and want to be involved in church, people assume they want to work with kids or youth. In my case, as a teacher, the last thing I want to spend my Sunday doing is working with kids. After a long week working with children, I want a break from them. Yes, it is true that many young adults do enjoy working with youth or children but keep in mind we are all different. Millennials are not all the same! We have many gifts and talents that can be put to good use in church. For some it might be playing handbells or singing in the choir. Others might want to get involved with building and grounds and help take care of the church building. Others will organize outreach and mission. Take the time to get to know us and to understand what gifts and talents we might be willing to share. Not only will it make us feel more welcome, it will also make a better church!
3) Remember we are adults now too
Many young adults grew up in the church we attend now. That means people remember us when we were children running around after church or when we were teenagers acting cooler than the flip side of a pillow. It also means people sometimes forget we are no longer those 16-year-olds in church because our parents made us come. We are now coming to church because it is a place we want to be. We want to make a meaningful contribution to our church family, but it is a two-way street. Churches are going to have to not just create space for us, but proactively invite us to get involved in meaningful ways. This means people who’ve been in leadership for years might have to move over and let young adults help, which might mean changing “the way we’ve always done it.” Young adults don’t need to run everything, but one day we will be the ones making the decisions. Why not start training us now, let us in on some decision-making, or at least listen to our voices? It’s time to start being intentional about sharing responsibilities with young adults who want to be involved.
4) Don’t panic if we aren’t at church every Sunday
Just because I am not in church every Sunday doesn’t mean I don’t want to be involved anymore. A lot of my friends don’t go to church every Sunday, but they still want to be involved too. Many of us (not all) get more out of mission work and putting our faith into action than we do sitting in church on Sunday morning. Now don’t get me wrong–I enjoy very much going to church and listening to my pastor, but that’s not always enough. I don’t need to sit in church every Sunday to feel close to God. Sometimes I feel closer when I am on the mountaintop at Laurel Ridge singing camp songs, or sitting by the river writing in my journal. The place I felt God’s presence the most wasn’t a church; it was when I sat on the floor of a school in Nepal listening to a child read to me. For many young adults, church isn’t about being in one place to worship or listen to God’s word. Church is walking in the Suicide Prevention and Awareness Walk; church is going to Nepal to teach; church is helping with hurricane relief; church is so much more than a building. So just because you don’t see us in worship doesn’t mean we are never coming back. It just means we are out in the world putting our faith into action.
Young adults do not just represent the future of the church–we are the church right now! Please continue to encourage us, love us, and make space for us as we embrace both old and new ways to follow Jesus in the world.
About the Author
Jessy is a lifelong member of Unity Moravian. She grew up in Winston-Salem and attended Appalachian State University to study Elementary Education. Now she is a 2nd grade teacher in Winston-Salem. She is a proud mother of her fur-baby, Olive. Jessy has a passion for mission work and spent her summer in Kathmandu, Nepal working in a school. She plans to return this summer again to continue working with the school.
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