Talk to a younger adult. Seriously. 46% of the population is under the age of 35. You see them nearly every day. You probably buy something from someone under 35 most days. Ask one of those you encounter a question that can’t be answered “Yes or No.” Need a suggestion about what to ask? Try here. This is absolutely the number one way to begin.
Most of us have greatly diminished conversational practices. We rarely talk to strangers, especially strangers who are distant from us by age, culture or language. I watch people every day choosing to check their cell phone instead of talking to the living human being right in front of them. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
It is fun and life giving to talk to the younger people we encounter every day. Recently, I’ve been talking with a young woman behind the counter at a local fast food restaurant. This is her first job and I met her in her first week on the job. When I talk to her now and offer a word of encouragement, her face just lights up. How many people like my friend are just waiting for you to be an encouraging presence in their work life?
I set a goal of talking to someone new every day. Most of these conversations are one-time encounters, but sometimes they lead to deeper friendships and occasionally they open the door to a life changing opportunity for me or for them. One of my heroes in the church made the acquaintance of the new people who joined the gym where he worked out every day. Most of them were 30 or more years younger than he was. Dozens of young people from that gym ended up participating in bible studies in our church because this one man had taken the time to have a genuine conversation with them at the gym. Who is Christ preparing for you to connect with today?
Co-create leadership opportunities with younger adults.
Leaders too often encourage younger adults to displace an older adult in leadership of some committee or group in the church. That just hurts the older adults, ticks off their friends and sets up the younger adults for failure.
What is lovely, and works oh-so-much better, is to prayerfully discern alongside a younger person how God has gifted and called them to be a leader in their household, their work, at school, in the community or in the world. When we take time to pray and invite a younger friend into a conversation about how God is working in their lives, it is amazing what God does with that. Whether or not you discover something that fits in your church leadership structure, follow the move of God that is taking place in their life, celebrate what God is leading them to do and to be and support them as they discover the joy of following the Lord.
Lauren, still in her teens, was invited by Lee to be an emerging leader in worship as they discerned how God was blessing people through her leadership, singing and prayers. By 17 she had developed into a powerful, gifted, worship leader who routinely was bringing people into the presence of Christ. That wasn’t a fluke. God is routinely pouring out gifts into every young and old person who is open to God’s presence. Pastors and existing church leaders have a beautiful opportunity every day to discern those incredible gifts that are being made available through younger people to build up and grow the body of Christ.
That is how the Methodist movement exploded from 1784-1850. Thousands of young people were called and gifted by God to spread scriptural holiness across the continent. Leaders in the church were ready to embrace and deploy them in high-risk-high-value mission. By the time the Methodists began to move away from this posture of leadership around 1850 – 30% of the population was involved in the Methodist movement. God is still working like this in young people’s lives North America as well as the rest of the world.
Churches grow dramatically when they have leaders who
- discern alongside younger people in their community the calling and gifts God is readying to be unleashed,
- embrace the amazing ways that God is ready to use young people,
- deploy younger people in high value mission, and
- shoulder alongside them the risks of being on mission with Christ
You don’t have to change everything about your church to do this, but you do have to change your posture toward Christ and your posture toward the younger people you encounter every day. When you make that change in posture, it is life giving in ways you want to experience!
This change of posture, engaging strangers in conversation, following the lead of the Holy Spirit is totally engaging but getting started turns out to be remarkably difficult. We need each other’s encouragement, accountability and support to make the needed change. That’s why we are holding workshops and forming coaching clusters to build our personal and our church’s capacity to connect with younger people. Find out more here.