New Research Pushes Churches to Value Youth Ministry More
I love it when our research surprises me. I love it when our research proves my initial hunches to be wrong because that means we are riding a steep learning curve.
That happened countless times in our most recent four-year study. Funded by four amazing foundations, the primary goal of our last four years of research has been to understand how and why exemplary churches across the United States are effectively engaging 15 to 29 year-olds.
Put more simply, we studied 250 amazing churches that are growing, and growing young. It’s one of the most comprehensive and collaborative studies ever conducted on churches engaging young people.
Churches and Young People: Here’s What We Found
About a year into our research, we realized that one of the key factors in these churches’ success was that they prioritized young people.
Sometimes that meant financial support of the youth and young adult ministry.
Other times it meant emphasizing the youth ministry in calendar and facility decisions.
Always it meant that as those congregational leaders envisioned their future plans and programs, they factored in the needs and opportunities in the youth ministry.
At this point in the research, I began to wonder about the opportunity costs associated with what these churches’ choices. I figured any church that emphasized young people must have to give less attention to another age group, and then that age group would suffer. Tradeoffs are a reality everywhere, right?
They certainly are in my personal life. When I spend more time on email, I spend less time on the phone. When my daughter focuses on studying math, sometimes she doesn’t give enough attention to her science homework. It is natural that any person, organization, or business with finite resources must constantly negotiate their commitments.
So we asked the senior pastors at many of these congregations, “When you prioritize young people, who feels neglected? What ends up suffering?”
Their answer: No one. And nothing.
That still didn’t make sense to me, so our team pushed senior leaders harder. We received the same answers: When the youth and young adult ministry is emphasized, the whole church benefits.
As one senior pastor of an east coast church that has experienced a remarkable congregational turnaround by emphasizing young people explained…
[bctt tweet=”Everybody rises when you focus on young people.” username=”fullerFYI”]
What Young People Bring to Their Churches
Specifically, when we asked congregants how young people contribute, we heard that they add more to congregations.
And more overall health.
That’s why we ended up titling the book, and this project, Growing Young. Our data shows a connection between effective ministry to young people and the missional, relational, spiritual, and numerical growth of a church.
We hope this research encourages you and helps you mobilize the following groups of people:
1. Parents who are battling busy schedules and need to know that their kids’ spiritual growth is important not just for the kids, but for the overall health of their church and their family.
2. Youth ministry volunteers who are weary and need some fresh motivation for all the overnighters and meals they spend with students. They are part of a grander vision and movement!
3. Church boards and committees who are making important decisions about what to emphasize. The R.O.I. (or “return on investment”) for focusing on young people is indeed strong.
4. Pastoral staff members who, like you, care not just about their specific areas but the entire church body.
The best part? Growing Young launches on September 20th, but we have a package of gifts for you today. Our team has put together a fabulous preorder bonus bundle with more than $100 of valuable free resources.
By ordering the book before it launches to the public, you’ll have access to our exclusive gifts. Our team put these resources together, and I can hardly believe we’re giving all of this away!
What you’ll receive:
- An ebook of inspiring Growing Young stories
- An intergenerational conversation toolkit
- An invitation to an exclusive webinar with me and my coauthors
- A research StatSheet to present to your colleagues
- A bundle of desktop and mobile wallpapers
- A free digital edition of Right Click, our book about teenagers’ use of technology
- A 12-day prayer guide sent via email
- An audio version of Growing Young (once launched)
Want these fantastic resources today? Preorder the book by following the instructions on our book page.
As you love and serve young people today, know that you are part of a bigger story of what God is doing in and through your church.
We at the Fuller Youth Institute are so grateful for you. Together let’s move beyond the bad news as leading churches reveal what works with young people!
Kara Powell, PhD, is the executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch,” Kara serves as a youth and family strategist for Orange and also regularly speaks at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, THE Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, and Can I Ask That?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.