More and more of my conversations with churches have left me discouraged by their perspective on young adult ministry. It seems to be an extension of youth ministry models, which by the way are a huge reason why many young adults no longer find the church appealing.
Many YA’s grew up in these add-on youth ministries that fostered little spiritual development for youth but rather conformed them into little church-goers, who one day would grow up and trade in their Youth Group evenings for the big boy traditional service and Sunday School. Or many more of these young adults grew up outside of the church, so they have no familiarity with the church language. The worship service is in a foreign language, and there seems no explicable reason for why they should be educated to be a better Christian, when they do not understand why being a Christian even matters.
So it seems the model of Young Adult ministry being propogated in the PC(USA) church is a bait-and-switch model that lures them in with “free food” after the service, opens up the gymnasium for fellowship activities, and creates a “dumbed down” worship service later in the evening, so that once they get settled down and mature, they can join us at 11am. Hmm, sounds like the same things we do for our youth.
If it did not work when they were 17 (or only temporarily, until they left their parents tutilage), why do we think it will work when they are 27? While this may attract a few, my guess is that it attracts the “transfer” young adults who have moved to a new area and are actively searching for a church community.
What about the rest, who realize the shallowness of plug-and-play ministry that is just tacked on to the life of the church and easily removed without altering the hardwiring of the “real and grown-up” community?
Rather than plug-and-play programs, what if authentic relationships are the key connection that restructure the larger community. In other words smaller groups (mentoring relationships and traditional small groups) become the conduit for, not only Young Adults, but the entire community.