How can a church reach young people?

01 Oct

growing-youngBook Review: Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love your Church, by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin

How can a church not only retain its young people but involve them in ministry as well? Are there churches that are effective in reaching those in the 15-29 age bracket? If so, what can we learn from their successes? These questions form the basis of Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love your Church, by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin.

The authors are part of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. They conducted research with 250 successful churches to discover what works when it comes to reaching and retaining 15-29 years old. The results of their research and findings fall into a “best practices” category of books.

The authors begin by explaining that churches “grow young” because (1) they are engaging young people ages 15 to 29; and (2) they are growing—spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and sometimes also numerically. The practices can be employed in any church, regardless of size, location or region, denomination, age of congregation, type or size of building, budget, worship style, or teaching style.

Through their research, the authors identified “six core commitments your church needs to grow young.”

  • Unlock keychain leadership. Instead of centralizing authority, empower others—especially young people.
  • Empathize with today’s young people. Instead of judging or criticizing, step into the shoes of this generation.
  • Take Jesus’ message seriously. Instead of asserting formulaic gospel claims, welcome young people into a Jesus-centered way of life.
  • Fuel a warm community. Instead of focusing on cool worship or programs, aim for warm peer and intergenerational friendships.
  • Prioritize young people (and families) everywhere. Instead of giving lip service to how much young people matter, look for creative ways to tangibly support, resource, and involve them in all facets of your congregation.
  • Be the best neighbors. Instead of condemning the world outside your walls, enable young people to neighbor well locally and globally.

Each chapter contains several pages on “research findings” where they explain the significance of each of the six strategies. They follow it up with several pages of “ideas for action” which you can consider implementing in your situation. The last chapter of the book also stresses the importance of understanding your church context before you try to make changes. The authors also caution the reader not to compare the best of what other churches are doing with the worst of what you find in your church.

The strength of the book is that it is practical and helpful. The weakness of the book is that it is based on pragmatism—what works. At least a couple of the ideas make me wonder whether they were in line with what Scripture teaches. In reading the book, one should take the approach of the Bereans to “see if these things are true” in relationship to what the Bible says.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in Books, Ministry


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