Seven Ways You Can Better Connect with Young Adults

You don’t have to visit too many small town churches to figure out they’re not doing a great job of reaching younger people. Oh sure, if you asked them, they would say they have a desire to see their kids and grandkids in church, but for the most part they’re not willing to make the changes necessary to connect with young adults. When this is the case, it’s only a matter of time before the church closes its doors.

Hopefully, you’ve realized that by now, which is why you’re reading this post. If you want to connect with young adults, here are seven ideas to try.

  1. Change the music. I debated about putting this one first because I know some of you will stop reading at this point, but it has to be said. The majority of young adults are not enthusiastic about going to a church that plays mostly hymns. That’s why many churches have moved to a more contemporary or even modern style of worship music. If you want to reach young adults, you should be thinking of making the shift as well. That doesn’t mean you have to throw out the hymns altogether, but you do need to learn how to present them in a new way for a new generation.
  2. Be active on social media. If your church is located in the United States, you better believe people in your community are on social media. Your church should at least have its own Facebook page, and it would be a good idea for you to have one as well. Most people will connect online before they decide to visit the church in person.
  3. Keep you website clean and up to date. There are few things worse than visiting a church website and finding out it’s not been updated in years. If you have a calendar, keep it updated. If you have photos, make sure you change them out every few months. If you have a website but you’re not sure where to start, you can find out more info in this post.
  1. Have young adults volunteering in first impressions. Hopefully, your church has a first impressions team, those people in the parking lot and at the doors greeting people. Make sure you have some young adults in those positions. Young adults are more likely to connect to your church if they see other people in their age range and stage of life.
  1. Make kid’s ministry a top priority. It’s very unlikely a family will stay at your church if you don’t have a good kid’s ministry. Parents these days tailor almost everything around their kids, so you better find a way to meet their expectations. Find out the three most important pieces of the kid’s ministry puzzle here.
  1. Lose the suit and tie. Most young adults don’t even own a suit and tie anymore, so why are you still wearing one? One of the most impactful changes the church I serve ever made was our pastor’s decision to dress more casual. It makes you more comfortable as well as your guests.
  1. Update your facility. I’m not talking about major changes because I know most of you can’t afford that. But, adding a new coat of paint shouldn’t break the bank. Think of ways you can improve the look of your building, and if you’re really brave, find a way to replace those pews with chairs.

That’s my list, but I’d love to hear what’s working at your church. Leave a comment, and let me know what your church is doing to reach younger adults. Also, would you be so kind to share this link with another pastor or church leader? My goal is to help small town churches reach their potential, and you sharing this article helps me accomplish that.

The Open Door Church Story

Guest Post: Kenny Burns

My wife Genny and I arrived at The Open Door Church on the last Sunday of January 2009. The church was a relatively new church plant at the time. The first public service was held June 17, 2007 so it was about 2 ½ years old when we arrived. The church was planted with the desire to reach youth and young adults who were not being reached by the traditional churches in the Missouri Boot Heel. Their first pastor had just left under less than ideal circumstances and the congregation was very discouraged.

When we arrived there was an average attendance of 57. They didn’t realize it, but their focus had turned inward. So I spent my first year turning the focus outward. We developed the following motto: If it does not contribute to our doing evangelism, discipleship, or worship, we don’t do it!

The first breakthrough came when God used a highly dysfunctional family who started attending ODC in mid-2009 to give us what we call our Probation & Parole Ministry. A single mom with three sons started attending our service. She had recently been in prison on drug related convictions and had recently been released. She had regained custody of the boys, but had rotating men in and out of her home.

The oldest boy, Blake, was arrested on drug charges and court ordered to the Dunklin County Probation & Parole Center.   His mom got permission to pick him up and Sunday mornings and bring him to church. After a few months she was arrested on drug charges again and sentenced to 120 days in prison. So I went to the P&P Center and asked if I could pick Blake up on Sundays for church. His probation officer agreed and our P&P Ministry was unexpectedly launched.

A several weeks later, Blake was released from P&P, but was under house arrest complete with an electronic ankle bracelet. I baptized him on a Sunday morning while one of our elders held his foot out of the water to keep the ankle bracelet dry. As he came up out of the water and walked down the aisle to the men’s room to change into dry clothes, the Spirit of God moved and completely changed the heart of our church. The place burst into applause, there were “cat calls,” tears, and laughter, all at the same time.

God used Blake to break the hearts of ODC’s people for broken people. Since then we have brought hundreds of people from P&P to ODC’s Sunday worship services and more than 100 of them have been saved, baptized, and discipled.

Another breakthrough came when we opened our Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry in March of 2012. It is the most effective evangelistic ministry we have. Currently an average of 150 families comes through the Food Pantry & Clothes Closet on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. till noon. To date in 2018 a total of 49 people have prayed to receive Jesus as a result of that ministry. Before they get to the food and clothes, they must go through what we call our “Romans Road Room,” where they hear “The Jesus Story” and are given the opportunity to pray to receive the Lord Jesus and His gift of eternal life. More than 300 people have been saved as a result of this ministry!

Then ODC’s elders sensed God leading them minister to “the least of these,” which we defined in our region as drug addicts and alcoholics. So we partnered with a ministry known as “Mission Teens” to open ODC’s Freedom House Ministry. It is an 8-10 month residential discipleship program designed to help addicts and alcoholics gain freedom from their addictions.

There is a huge, two-story antebellum house on ODC’s campus which housed our Children’s Ministry and Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry, but we believed God wanted that facility to be “Freedom House,” which meant we would need to build another building to house the other two ministries. So we prayed and told God, if He wanted us to open Freedom House, we needed Him to provide the funds for us to build a debt-free building for the Children’s Ministry and Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry.

We didn’t know it at the time, but God had a better plan. The First Baptist Church in our town “went out of business,” and they donated their church building and parsonage to ODC. We moved our Food Pantry & Clothes Closet Ministry to the FBC building and rented out the parsonage to cover the expense of insurance and utilities on that facility.

God then provided $101,500.00 for the construction of a debt-free Christian Education Center on ODC’s main campus. So in March 2016 we moved ODC’s Children’s Ministry into its new home, and Freedom House opened. To date 169 people have come through Freedom House and received intense discipleship to help them gain freedom from their addictions. Forty-seven of them have been saved, and 51 have been baptized!

The next breakthrough came when our elders began to sense that God wanted us to minister to the huge Hispanic community in Dunklin County. So we prayed and asked God to give us a Hispanic Pastor. We contacted the General Baptist Bible Institute in California. God brought us into contact with Gaspar Cruz who quit his job and moved his family from Long Beach, California to Holcomb, Missouri to develop ODC’s Hispanic congregation. The first Hispanic service was held on November 6, 2016. They meet on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. in ODC’s Worship Center. Their current average attendance is 23, and 19 people have been saved as a result of this ministry.

As a result of spending 8 ½ years developing a ministry at ODC that is intentionally outward in its focus, the average attendance on Sundays at ODC’s two worship services has increased from 57 to 137 in a town of 635 people. ODC’s Sunday attendance is currently running 21.5% of Holcomb’s population! In 2016 ODC’s total conversions was 212 with 60 baptisms, in 2017 the total conversions was 196 with 67 baptisms, and thus far in 2018 total conversions is 122 with 54 baptisms.

Kenny Burns is the pastor of The Open Door Church in Holcomb, Missouri.

Have a small town or rural church success story? I’d love to hear about it. Visit my contact page and shoot me an email. I might even share your story in an upcoming post.

4 Big Asks You Should be Making Every Week

I’m convinced that more people would get involved in our churches if we just asked them. I went to one church for three years and not once did they ever ask me to serve. I got saved at that church, but they had no place for me to serve. How crazy is that? I just bet there are some people in your church that may be thinking the same thing.

The majority of people who don’t get connected to your church will quit coming within a few months. I was a rare exception.

People are coming to church looking for friends and purpose, and when they don’t find those, they go looking elsewhere.

So, don’t hesitate to ask. Sure, you may get a few no’s, but at least they’ll know you wanted them to be a part.

Ask them to do one of these four things each week:

  1. Serve on a team. People like to be a part of a team that’s winning. Or, even a part of a team that’s just being built. It’s exciting. Plus, you know you need the volunteers, so just ask. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this article for some ideas.
  1. Get in a group. Not everyone is going to want to join a group, but there’s a percentage that does. Groups are the best place to make friends and build lasting relationships. It doesn’t always have to be a Bible study either. Some of the best groups I’ve ever been a part of were mainly focused on just hanging out with each other.
  1. Give a little or a lot. For many of you, asking people to give is a huge struggle, but it shouldn’t be. If your church is doing it’s part to help spread the love of Jesus, then you shouldn’t hesitate to ask people to give towards that. People give to all kinds of charity organizations, and the church is more important than any of them.
  1. Invite someone. I’m a pastor, and I still need to be reminded to invite others to church. It just doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. It’s a struggle for most people. Most of them don’t mind doing it. They just need to be reminded every once in awhile.

Just like you need to be reminded to be asking people to get connected.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to get new people connected? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.