As ministry leaders, we’re eager to mentor the next generation. We have so much insight and wisdom to pass on after all. But investing in teenagers and young adults isn’t about dropping some knowledge and walking away. It’s about engaging them in conversations, practicing empathy, and providing them with ways they can be actively involved in the church right now.
Chap Clark kicks us off by talking about how increasing social capital in our churches can better connect us with what many see as the disconnected generation. Then Brad Griffin and Jake Mulder join us to unpack key insights from Growing Young, the book they co-authored with Kara Powell.
Welcome to Episode 40 of the Think Orange Podcast.
Kevin and Dave talk about their OC17 highlights (4:24)
Chap Clark talks about how to connect with a disconnected generation (6:42)
Two sides of the same kid (7:40)
When we only interact with kids and students within the church, we only see them through the lens of what they look like at church (11:04)
A kid can’t become an adult without social capital—people in their lives who are invested in them without expecting anything in return (13:06)
Tightrope illustration of adolescent attachment development (13:58)
Skills necessary for adulthood have increased, while adult support (social capital) has decreased (16:55)
Interview with Brad Griffin and Jake Mulder (20:40)
Explanation of the book Growing Young (22:20)
The Growing Young study focused on churches thriving with 15–29 year olds (23:35)
Many churches are both shrinking and aging (25:30)
The shifting tides of today’s young adults and teenagers (25:55)
Church leaders have the opportunity to address these shifts with empathy (27:40)
Showing empathy by using the phrase “tell me more” (29:02)
The importance of a church’s context in the pursuit of growing young (30:20)
Explanation of how 15 is the new 25 and how adults can help (33:56)
As leaders, we have a responsibility to invite adolescents to face-to-face interactions (39:20)
The Growing Young research process (40:58)
Implications for preschool and children’s ministry from the Growing Young research (44:32)
Common myths of what it takes to grow young (47:35)
Priorities of Growing Young churches (50:11)
Advocating for keychain leadership (53:02)
Sometimes as kid’s or student leaders, we like to hide out in our own spaces (57:48)
Using the Growing Young Assessment as a tool for talking with senior leaders about the realities in your church (1:01:50)
Dave and Kevin’s final thoughts (1:03:15)
People, Places & Helpful Resources
Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin
Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam
Blog: Orange Leaders – a blog with strategies, tips and ideas from leaders influencing the faith and character of the next generation
Chapman “Chap” Clark is professor of the Youth, Family, and Culture Department in the School of Theology and chair of the Christian Discipleship department. He also serves as director of the Student Leadership Project and is the School of Theology’s representative on the executive board of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI). On faculty since 1997, he created and directs Fuller’s master’s-level and Doctor of Ministry programs in Youth, Family, and Culture, and oversees PhD students in practical theology who are studying youth and family ministry, youth culture and adolescent development, and “Learning Communities, Education, and Formation.”
Jake Mulder is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he oversees business administration, coordinates new research, develops resources, and helps the team think strategically. He is the coauthor of Growing Young.
Brad M. Griffin is the Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.
Quotes from This Episode
Ideas to Influence the Next Generation
Young adults not only need to experience relational connection between you and them—they want to see belonging that extends church wide. There’s something attractive about a church that loves one another well. Many young adults who are actively engaged in their churches describe them as “like family.” And just like our biological families, these congregations draw closer together by sharing time together across generations.
No matter how much life experience you have, there’s always more to learn. When you spend time with teenagers and young adults, don’t hesitate to ask questions like, “What’s something new you’ve learned lately?” “Can you help me understand how this works?” and, “What’s something you’ve been wondering about this week?”
Teenagers and young adults can smell inauthenticity from a mile away. You might be tempted to try to make yourself appear cooler, smarter, or more pulled together, but this might work against you rather than for you. Young adults want to know the real you, and will feel more relaxed if they know you’re being genuine.
Conversation Starters For Your Church
What challenges are students facing that might cause them to disengage during large group?
If our ministry could only talk about three things for the duration of a student’s time in it, what would they be?
How would we know our communication with students was effective? What would we see as a result?
When he’s not working as a pastor at North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Dave is usually making his family cross their arms, roll their eyes, and tap their feet while he takes “just one more quick photo” on family outings. You’ll also often find him up to his neck in “Jewish stuff” as he researches the cultural context of Jesus for his daily Instagram devotions. Learn more about Dave at daveadamson.tv.
Ashley serves as the Director of Middle School Strategy at Orange and the USA Director of Carry 117. She has worked with students in public education, athletic and ministry settings for the last 12 years. She is most passionate about resourcing the local church, communicating on stage, developing leaders, working with students and world missions. In her downtime, you’ll find her watching Friends, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers, traveling, reading, or on one of her Fairytale Friday Adventures.
Join Us Next Week
Thank you for listening to the Think Orange Podcast.
We hope you’ll join us for next week’s episode. More importantly, we hope that when you think next generation, you think Orange.