Every church that wants to engage and connect with young adults needs to start somewhere. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by identifying individuals within your church who will be key advocates for this demographic. While these Christians should all love Jesus, the church, and young adults, they will vastly differ in age, personality, and strategies utilized to best minister to them.
Several months ago, I told Austin West, a former Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) student who is now doing ministry in New York City, that I wanted to write an article on this topic. We agreed that if I did, I needed to mention one couple by name. When I was the campus minister at the BCM at the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM), I witnessed a couple from First Baptist Church in Monticello, Tim and Roxanne Smith, who fell in love with college students. The Smiths possess some characteristics that tend to be universally successful in reaching people of any age group, but work particularly well with young adults:
Current UAM BCM Campus Minister, Jeremy Woodall, said, “Families like the Smiths are vital to a healthy college ministry. The biggest thing for them is their presence. They attend BCM services, lunches, and events regularly.” Tim and Roxanne both work full-time and have two adult sons. They have legitimate reasons to not invest their time with young adults, but they choose to be available. In fact, Roxanne works at UAM. She could easily not want to spend any more time on campus when she is not on the clock. Tim’s job often has him out of town. I asked Tim about the most challenging parts of actively ministering to young adults, and he specifically mentioned time management. He mentioned the many God-honoring responsibilities in his life that often conflict with ministering to young adults. However, they prioritize spending time with students on and off campus. Tim also said, “It is important that you engage other members in your church to help. It cannot be a one-man show.”
Whether a person spends time with others at their home, a restaurant, or a park, it’s vital to make young adults feel welcomed and wanted in your presence. The Smiths often invite students into their lives, church, and home (where they host a small group). They go above and beyond to make people feel special. They do a great job of providing food (a proven way to a young adult’s heart) and a clean home, but more importantly they provide a warm environment and friendliness that make you want to spend more time with them.
This trait is crucial in serving others. Several years ago, when I was in my twenties, I was the pastor of Jennie Baptist Church near Lake Village, AR. There I had the privilege to serve alongside Roxanne’s mom and sister and her family. They were known for serving others. In fact, I often felt they served me and met my needs more than I did for them. Tim’s parents are also known as people always willing to serve at their church in Monticello. During my time there, I knew if I ever needed help in serving young adults, Tim and Roxanne were willing to serve without expecting anything in return. Young adults know when you have an agenda. Tim and Roxanne’s only agenda is showing people the love of Jesus.
When discussing the rewarding aspects of ministering to young adults, Tim mentioned the joy of seeing them get saved, grow in their faith, and serve in a local church. The Smiths have also enjoyed developing life-long friendships that go beyond their time in Monticello. They get to send them out to serve God wherever he calls them and watch them build their own families. I asked C.J. Womack, Assistant Campus Minister at UAM BCM, who has known the Smiths for years, what makes them so effective at ministering to young adults. He said, “Neither of them are in vocational ministry roles. So, they are viewed as ‘normal people’ who love Jesus and open their home to people.”
I truly believe that Arkansas Baptist churches across the state have available, hospitable, and selfless members ready to be key advocates to help the church reach young adults. Young adults need churches, and churches need young adults.
Who can be the bridge in your church? Extraordinary saints masquerading as “normal people.” If someone comes to mind who is already doing a great job of mentoring the next generation, send them this article along with a “thank you.” If you thought of someone who could be the next Tim or Roxanne for your church, send them this with an encouragement to get started. If you need help, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local BCM campus minister.