Most church leaders—especially those in family ministries—would say they pour a great deal of time, energy, and resources into fostering a life-long faith in the next generation. The average student pastor invests four, five, sometimes six or seven years into students planning weekly programming, going on retreats, investing in small group leaders, and so much more. Then when their time is up, those students graduate and move on. And all too often, they not only move on from the student ministry but the church as well.
Today on episode 68 of The Think Orange Podcast, we’ll listen in on a conversation between Jared Herd and Chuck Bomar as they discuss six reasons The Barna Group has unearthed as to why high school graduates leave the church. Then Ashley interviews Dr. Steven Argue, author of 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult, on ways that parents and the church can remain active in the lives of students post-graduation. We’ll discover that when it comes to 18 to 29-year-olds, empathy and a sincere, “Tell me more” can go a long way in reaching the next generation.
Dave introduces today’s guests (2:09)
Conversation between Jared Herd and Chuck Bomar (7:41)
Six reasons Barna unearthed on why high school graduates leave the church (8:16)
- They see the church as having overprotective environments (8:18)
- They see the church as antagonistic to science (10:06)
- They see the church as shallow (12:53)
- They see the church’s stance on sexuality as simplistic or judgmental (14:46)
- They see the church and Christianity as exclusive (18:28)
- They see the church as unfriendly to those who doubt (21:32)
Ashley’s interview with Dr. Steven Argue (22:25)
Steven’s definitions of “young adult” and “emerging adult” (22:47)
How the world is changing for emerging adults today versus previous generations (24:45)
“Tell me more” is a better phrase than, “When I was your age . . . ” (26:34)
When students turn 18, a DTR takes place and they begin to ask the church, “Who are we together?” (27:43)
What Steven has seen work in ministering to emerging adults (34:46)
If we’re serious about taking an empathetic posture, it will cost us something (41:16)
The role of a parent in the emerging adult (18–29) phase (44:36)
Resources on emerging adults for parents and ministry leaders (49:48)
- The Phase Project
- 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult
Dave and Kevin’s final thoughts (53:51)
People, Places & Helpful Resources
Book: Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin
Book: 18 Plus: Parenting Your Emerging Adult by Steven Argue and Kara Powell
DR. STEVEN ARGUE
Steve is an Applied Research Strategist at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Seminary where he teaches in the Youth, Family, and Culture program. He directs FYI’s cohort coaches and serves on FYI’s Advisory Council. He is also co-leading research projects on ministry innovation and spiritual formation for adolescents and emerging adults.
Steve served as a pastor and Theologian-In-Residence at Mars Hill Bible Church [Grand Rapids, MI]. He researches, speaks, and writes on topics surrounding adolescence, emerging adulthood, spiritual development, and spiritual struggle.
You will find him training for marathons, tweeting #RunningThoughts, and eating vegetarian.
Chuck Bomar served nine years at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California before moving to Portland, Oregon in 2008. He planted Colossae Church. Out of this church, a total of three churches have now been planted. In addition to embedding into the city through strategic relationships with civic leaders in the school districts, he has authored over a dozen small group resources and nine books with the most recent being the highly anticipated, Serving Local Schools. When he is not out of town speaking at conferences or consulting with churches and denominations, he is home with his family. As you can see from his Facebook/Instagram feed, being home with his girls is his happy place. Chuck and his wife, Barbara, have three beautiful daughters: Karis, Hope, and Sayla.
Jared Herd is the lead pastor of Church at Rancho Bernardo in San Diego, CA.
Over the past decade, Jared has been traveling the country sharing the hope of Jesus with a humorous and captivating approach that has reached thousands.
Jared previously served as the teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa as well as creative director for XP3, a student ministry curriculum for The reThink Group (most commonly known as Orange). Jared is also been one of the featured communicators at BigStuf Camps in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Quotes from This Episode
Ideas to Influence the Next Generation
Among the five key features of emerging adults that researchers commonly say makes this life stage distinct is that of a sense of broad possibilities for the future. This characteristic—which some might view as idealistic or naïve—is one of the best ways the church can capitalize on reaching 18 to 29-year-olds during the season of life they’re in. Like this topic suggests, the possibilities for this are endless and vary depending on your cultural, geographic, and denominational climate. Warning: Inviting today’s emerging adults to open up to you about their plans and vision for the future can be intimidating and is not for that faint of heart or the hard-headed.
Hand over leadership.
In the book Growing Young, the authors describe keychain leadership as “sharing power with the right people at the right time.” What this means is that all over your church, there are responsibilities or jobs held by senior leaders that could be entrusted to a younger leader. All around your church, look for places emerging adults can get plugged in to serve in a higher capacity. This might mean shifting responsibility for a week, two weeks, or indefinitely, depending on the circumstances.
Offer opportunities to serve together.
Emerging adults are reading to make a difference in the world both locally and globally. So help them locate partners and projects that will let them do exactly that (keeping in mind, they’re ready to lead and might only need you for sidelines guidance or an introduction). Once this happens, be ready to celebrate what they’ve done. Make sure someone is there to document progress with before and after photos. Invite them to tell their stories on outlets like social media, your church’s blog, and in weekend worship gatherings. Bonus: To help bridge the gap from your student ministry to what’s next, consider making the opportunity open to high school seniors as well.
Ask what they think the future looks like.
It can be daunting sometimes to ask a young adult what they think the future holds. After all, we live in an age of digital assistants, streaming television, and cars that drive themselves. But there’s something powerful about asking an emerging adult what they see for the future, so don’t be afraid to ask what they see as possible for your church, your community, and their own lives. And when they answer, take the opportunity to truly listen. When you’re tempted to use the conversation as a mentoring moment or to tell them why what they think won’t be possible, instead choose to lean in and use that golden phrase, “Tell me more.”
Conversation Starters For Your Church
How would you describe empathy? What do you think that looks like when it comes to relating to younger generations?
What presuppositions do we hold about the students who attend our youth ministry? Of those, which of them may be untrue or over-simplistic?
What opportunities do we invite 18 to 29-year-olds into within our church? On a scale of 1–10, how effective do we think these programs or events are in reaching emerging adults?
What’s one way we can invite emerging adults into further leadership within the context of our church—both as a group and as individuals?
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.