It’s no secret that many college-age students who were raised in church drop out once they’re on their own. On the other hand, some churches have done a good job of keeping and reaching this group. Here’s what I see that keeps young people in church:
- Genuine relationships. First, they have strong relationships with others their own age. Second, they have a ministry leader they respect and from whom they want to learn. Third—and perhaps most importantly—they have relationship with older adults. Young people long for older mentors and models, and the church that offers these relationships will be a magnet for young people.
- Deep theology. This generation isn’t interested in watered-down, weak theology. They’re especially not interested in churches that ignore theology. Rather, they want to think deeply and discuss theology with others who can help them think through their positions.
- Hands-on opportunities. Christian service, to this group, means much more than just attending church and putting dollars in the offering plate; it means actually ministering somehow to make a difference in somebody’s life. If young people can’t get their hands dirty in taking the gospel to hurting people, they’re not inclined to get on board.
- Meaningful purpose. This generation can be selfish, but they can also be more interested in causes than other generations. Whether the issue is poverty, human trafficking, addiction, or any number of causes, young people want to take on issues bigger than themselves.
- Honest answers. Today’s young people don’t simply accept the theology of their home church. They question it all, but usually not without a willingness to learn. They want a church that recognizes their questions, respects their struggles, offers well thought-out responses, and says “I don’t know” when necessary.
- “Adopted” family. Here, I’m thinking particularly of young people who are geographically or emotionally distant from their families of origin. They’re looking for opportunities to be part of a family—to have dinner with them, to get to know their kids, to see how to love spouses and raise children, and to have a place of refuge when life gets overwhelming.
- Pastoral support. My experience is that churches who keep young people have pastors who give them time and attention. They see the lead pastor not just as the “guy who preaches,” but as a friend they can approach when needed.
- Global missions. The missionary heart in me is grateful to see this trend. Young people like both the adventure of travel and the faith-risk of going where others may not go. Churches that capitalize on this passion will attract and keep a young generation.
What else would you add to this list?