[Next Generation] Connecting young adults to small groups in church

One of the best ways for us to help build biblical community within our church is through small groups (Sunday school, Bible studies, home groups, etc.). If young adults do not get or remain connected to others within the church after they leave high school, they are much more likely to leave the church. Many churches value small groups but might be unsure about how to engage young adults. This article will assume that your small groups already focus on Bible teaching, prayer, and accountability. It will focus on connecting young adults to existing groups or starting new ones.  

I. Connecting Young Adults to an Existing Multigenerational or Age-Specific Small Group 

  1. Nurture an invite-culture – Young adults rarely go somewhere they are not invited. I cannot stress this enough. Train your people to invite every young adult they know—friends, family members, coworkers, college students, gym members, babysitters, etc. Invite EVERY unchurched young adult connected to your members.  
  1. Be a friend – Young adults need and usually want relationships with peers but also with older church members. Find common ground. Maybe it is shopping, sports, the outdoors, humor, work… Ultimately you should connect around Jesus, but he provides all of us with interests that others share.  
  1. Provide opportunities for participation – Some groups focus on a teacher presenting information to the group. There is nothing wrong with that and it can be extremely beneficial, but young adults typically have a lot of questions and input. Whether it is in this group or another setting, make sure they have opportunities to talk through these things.  
  1. Spend time together outside the meeting – Hang out with them. Most young people feel more comfortable in groups if there is not already an existing friendship. Feed them meals. Go to a movie. Open your home. A couple in my church (Cornerstone, Fort Smith) named Brent and Kathy Reeves exemplify this. I think the main thing they do to connect to young adults is to invite them into their home and simply prove their love by being present. They are teachers and a coach so they are extremely busy, but they prioritize spending time with young adults.  
  1. Be a mentor – Show them how to live for Jesus. Talk about it inside the group time but show them throughout the week. They need to see you love your spouse, raise your kids, share the Gospel, and serve in your church. If the small group is for young adults only, make sure they are connecting to older church members in other ways.  

II. Starting a Small Group for Young Adults 

  1. Pray for clarity – Maybe your community does not have young adults. In some rural communities, almost all young adults move away for employment or education purposes. However, in almost all areas of our country, you can find pockets of young adults who need to be engaged by the church. There is not a right or wrong way to start a group for young adults. Study what has or has not worked in other places but pray and ask God to reveal what will work best in your context.  
  1. If you already have at least 3-4 committed young adults in your church – This might be easy. Find someone who loves them (bonus points if they connect well). Recruit the leader(s) and cast a vision for why you think they would succeed. Determine a time and place to meet, work out details (will you have food, what will you study, and so on), invite your young adult church members, and follow the steps listed in the first part of this article. 
  1. If not, leverage your youth ministry – Work with your youth leader to create a way to transition current youth into adulthood. If you have youth, you should eventually have young adults. Begin creating a culture now that prepares your youth to stay connected once they graduate. This might mean getting creative and starting a group that includes both recent graduates and current high school seniors in order to have enough people to form a small group. By the time the seniors graduate, you might have enough young adults to transition the incoming seniors back to a youth-only group. 

Don’t give up! God has placed your church in your community to help reach it. Young adults need the church, and the church needs young adults. Do whatever you can to get them connected to an existing small group or start one for them. You should find the principles above applicable for most churches, but every church and community are unique. Therefore, feel free to reach out to me at pslaughter@absc.org if you want to talk about your specific context. Baptist Collegiate Ministries around the state are thriving, and we would love to help equip your church to reach young adults. 

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