Ministry to 20somethings

As a future minister of the Gospel, I’ve been thinking a great deal about how to reach that great un-reached people group: 18-25 year-old single people.

How do we reach *this* guy?

Think this through with me: after children have been cared for with age-specific ministry endeavors (children’s church, youth group, etc.), the next specialty group in most churches is the young marrieds group. Far from advocating a hip, cool, 20something ministry, I want to suggest that we abolish age-segregated ministry in the Church.

The Gospel is no different for a ten year old than a twenty year old. It is the decisive act of God in Christ to reconcile sinners (me and you) to Himself through the blood of His Son on the cross. How that Gospel applies does differ from age group to age group, or even circumstance to circumstance, but the message is the same.

20somethings are best ministered to by diligent preaching of the Gospel in pulpit and discipleship ministry week in and week out…preaching which begins at birth and continues through elementary school, middle school and finally high school. Motivational talks and dodge ball tournaments may put butts in the seats, but if the Gospel is assumed (at best) or absent (at worst), 20somethings know their time is better spent elsewhere.

Pastors, your job is to apply the truth of the Gospel to your people. If you want to call that relevance, fine. But your job is not to be relevant as it’s typically understood in WASP-America. It’s to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all humans, regardless of age, station, or occupation.

One way I’ve been taking this to heart is that I took a job teaching elementary music while in seminary. I figure if I can figure out how to communicate the Gospel to a kindergartener, I will have greatly improved my preaching and relational abilities to people of all ages. To the kids in my congregation, I don’t want to be “the adults’ pastor.” I want to be “the pastor.” I want to have the joy of shepherding my entire congregation and not by proxy (ie, through the youth pastor only or, worse still, through the parents who are sitting in the pews as I preach).

What would it look like to integrate a youth ministry, thereby preparing 20somethings for active life in Gospel community? Or, put another way, what would it look like to preach the Gospel to all the ages represented in our churches, thereby equipping 20somethings to see church attendance as a continuation of the faith they’ve expressed?

5 thoughts on “Ministry to 20somethings

  1. This post is spot on. I concur with your thoughts, and have been pondering the benefits of age-integrated ministry for a while.

    As a 20something myself, I would like to see more churches implement this pattern. Just curious… did you happen to watch the new documentary “Divided”?

  2. Dave I think there are two separate objectives here that we are all to prone to wrap into one. The first is how to reach out to 20 somethings (or any age group for that matter) with the Gospel. How to minister to the ‘former believer’ or ‘unbeliever’ to bring them Gospel with the hope that God would draw them into the covenant community (the church). The other question is how to minister to the 20 something who is presently in the covenant community.

    I think relevance is key in the first objective. In other words when we carry forth the Gospel into the world we carry into a bajillion different contexts and we carry it to individuals. Naturally we communicate in language that is relevant to those we speak to. We do this in any form of communication, even if it has nothing to do whatsoever with the Gospel. It is personal, and it is individualized, as it should be.

    The problem is when we confuse the first objective of taking the Gospel to people in our daily discourse, with the objective of administering Word and Sacrament to covenant community. Our discourse to the community is different because we are addressing the community as a community, and not as individuals. Of course this community includes both baptized infants 😉 and old saints nearing their death. However when we create age segregated ministry within the church we have turned away from the idea of a covenant community that unites around a unified message delivered in Word and Sacrament, in exchange for an individualized plan more akin to what should be taking place in daily discourse.

    I have no problem with an age segregated approach to evangelism, but segregating the community itself in worship and church programming seems to be a problem. It seems common that the covenant community is an after thought in our day, and evangelism has become the entire goal of the church, even in it’s Sunday services.

    Make sense? Struggling to find the right words today.

  3. There will always be two major questions in my regard, as to any age group, both the Gospel and the Church! What is the Gospel? And what and where is the Church? Here also we will find the great question of the authority of the Holy & Sacred Scripture!

    • That’s true…this does tie in a lot to the nature and authority of Scripture, and my entire post assumes a great deal about what constitutes Church.

      • Indeed, both Church & Scripture are closely related, but I think the Text of Holy Scripture will always establish both the Church and its members. Yet we should note that the Visible Church is connected to Covenant itself, but connection to the visible covenant does not always mean eternal salvation, (Heb. 10: 29). So in this life & world, the Church Catholic is a mixed group, “wheat & tares”, etc. Here is the position of both Calvin and Luther, and the best of the Reformers and Reformation. But God In Christ, does have an ‘election of grace’! (Rom. 11: 5-6) We must always be found in that place of God’s grace & perseverance, if we can say, I am “elect” In Christ!

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