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.
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?