By Silvi Pirn
The next generation of young people has everything to do with the future of Kenilworth Union Church. While many mainline protestant churches like ours are experiencing “aging and shrinking”, Kenilworth Union may be in a unique position to capitalize on on its historically strong youth ministry to strengthen and grow our whole church into the future. This is the idea behind “Growing Young”.
But there is more. Youth ministry is only part of how young people fit into our church. Every ministry and how it relates to the next generations has to do with the future of the church.
These ideas come from a book our leadership has been reading, Growing Young, by Kara Powell and Jake Mulder which is based on research that shows that churches that make a deliberate effort to reach young people are exactly the churches that are growing and vibrant. Specifically making it part of the church’s overall mission and vision to engage people between ages 15–29 and their families helps the church to grow.
Below is a quick synopsis of the book. We do have library copies for anyone interested in knowing all the details.
Growing Young Book Synopsis:
- Why 15–25 year olds?
- Adolescent through emerging adulthood is the time at which a large percentage of youth lose faith in God and connection to church, this is the time during which the big questions in life need answers: Who am I? Where do I fit? What difference do I make?
- It is important to focus efforts on this high-risk group to support the future of their faith and the future of the church
- Why Bother?
- Young people add vitality to their faith communities by increasing a church’s
- Financial resources
- Overall health
- Focusing on youth can bring momentum to other priorities like children’s ministries, fellowship, stewardship, and service
- Young people are an effective channel to bring Jesus’ message of loving God and loving others into the world beyond the walls of the church, Growing Young churches often reach not only church members but people in the larger community too
- What does it take for a church to be Growing Young?
- Six commitments by the church
- Keychain leadership—share responsibility, delegate, and authorize and empower others—especially young people
- Empathize with today’s young people—do not belittle or dismiss but be prepared to be alongside them in their search for identity, meaning, and mission
- Take Jesus seriously—do not employ formulaic Gospel claims but demonstrate and welcome people into a Jesus-centered way of life
- Fuel a warm community—focus on forming warm peer and intergenerational friendships for all members of the congregation, stay in touch, and reach out and mean it
- Prioritize Young People and families—look for creative and tangible ways to support, resource, and involve young people and their parents inside the church and also in the community outside the church—target families with teens and young adults
- Be the best neighbors—do not be judgmental about or separate the church from the world outside its walls, enable and encourage young people to be good neighbors locally and globally
- Growing Young at Kenilworth Union
We are beginning the process of imagining what Growing Young might look like here at Kenilworth Union. We are already doing a lot to reach youth but there are many more things we can do to incorporate more teens, young adults, and their families into the life of the church, in worship and music, in intergenerational ministry and mentor relationships, in service and care, in outreach, in praying, in studying and learning. We are only beginning to imagine what is possible and invite the church to imagine with us.