Resources to Encourage the Next Generation

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THE CHURCH GOES TO COLLEGE: Ministering to College-Age Young Adults in Your Church

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My observation from visiting almost 30 churches per year for the last 30-plus years has revealed that ministering to college age, young adults may be the weakest area of ministry in many, many local churches.

We need to change that trend!

I am convinced that any church can and should minister to the young adults in your area by implementing a few proactive and simple strategies. However, before I list those ideas, I must emphasize the fact that a ministry to this age group requires a commitment to do it. Many churches see high school kids leave the church following high school without tracking them to see where they are going to church or if they are even going on for God. We must close this gap and reinvest in this “missing generation” in our church. A ministry to this strategic age group begins with an investment of people resources. In other words, churches must decide to make college-age young adult ministry a priority.

Here are some ideas on how your church can minister to this large and needy people group:

  1. Start by developing an opportunity to teach them God’s Word!

This really is a simple place to start. Does your church have a class or Bible study for college-age young adults? If not, why not start one right away? Even your recent high school graduates need a place to study God’s Word following their involvement in the youth group. Recruit significant, Godly adults in your church to lead this new ministry – and remember that this current generation is not looking for a revision of what they got in youth ministry. College-age students want to be treated as adults; in fact, many of them many be enrolled in high-academic college or university majors. It doesn’t make sense for the church to give “fluff” to this age group when they are craving serious and important truth! If your church does not have the resources for a traditional Sunday School class, you could develop a regular time of Bible study for them instead. This age group needs Biblical answers that counter the various secular world views they are hearing in college. So, a teaching ministry is the place to start!

  1. Provide Godly older mentors to build growing, personal relationships with this age group.

This age group needs older people! The church can and should provide Godly older mentors for this generation of emerging young adults. So many college-age para-church organizations tend to separate young adults from the church by gathering groups of peers together on college or university campuses. Friends, this is a mistake. This demographic cohort desperately needs the church. The church can provide the human resources of a “family” of older adults who are willing to develop growing relationships and connections with college-age young adults. Encourage and teach your church’s older adults to take the time to build personal relationships with younger adults.

  1. Supply opportunities for this age group to have fellowship.

Friends are the lifeline for this age group. That is another reason why churches should “do something” for young adults. The church can and should provide real fellowship – with other members of this age group and with other ages. It is a shame, in some ways, that college and university students tend to develop their friends outside of the church. This generation is not looking for a series of “youth group games” or activities. A ministry to college-age young adults should look differently than that. Fellowship for this age group will probably feature hanging out around a cup of coffee instead of taking the members to the nearest amusement park.

  1. Give them leadership opportunities in the group and in your church as a whole.

One of the most effective ways to offer something for this age group is to give them some specific leadership responsibilities within the group – and within the greater structure of the entire church. In other words, give them something to do. This generation can lead Bible studies and will have influence on their peers. They are no longer teenagers – they are emerging adults. Give them leadership opportunities and work to train them for future positions of leadership in the church.

  1. Offer resources to help this age group become involved.

A very effective way to minister to this age group is for the church to supply resources for this generation that is in so much transition. Mentoring is one way to do that, but there is a vast variety of ways that a church could minister to college-agers. One church (located near a major university) hosts a meal for college students every Sunday afternoon. Another church provides transportation to and from the nearby college campuses. My home church recruited a team of families to host college-age students in their homes on Sunday afternoons. The point is that every local church has a supply of resources that could be utilized to minister to this age group. Ideas abound.

These simple ideas do not do justice to this important aspect of church programming. However, it is a shame for churches to do nothing – especially when the number one time people walk away from church is immediately following high school.

It’s time to change this trend.

Use What You Have! Ministry in the Days of Coronavirus

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Have you ever read about Shamgar in the Bible?

He was one of the deliverers of Israel, and although only one verse in the Bible is given to his major accomplishment, his story is told to us in Judges 3:31, “Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.”

We’ll get back to that victory a little bit later. But there is one other passage in the Bible that gives us some more background information about him. Later on, the book of Judges cites “the Song of Deborah”. In one stanza of that song there is also a brief reference to Shamgar. Notice Judges 5:6-7, “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were deserted, and the travelers walked along the byways.  Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel…”

Certainly, there are some parallels in that narrative to life today. Highways were empty, travelers had to sneak around, and their sense of community life “ceased”. In this time in the history of the nation of Israel the people were hiding due to what one commentator called “raiders” or thieves.

The nation needed a deliverer – and God raised up Shamgar. His name was probably Egyptian in origin and the text tells us that he was “the son of Anath”, which meant that he was perhaps from that lineage and may have been somewhat of a “mercenary” who changed sides to help protect the children of Israel.

This is where the story of Shamgar gets interesting. His weapon of choice in this incredible victory was an “ox goad”. Shamgar used what he had in his hand. The ox goad was a familiar farm implement, which means he was probably employed as a farmhand, working for someone else at the time. This tool was usually a long, pointed stick with two basic purposes. One was to “goad” or prod the oxen into moving through the plowing fields and the other was to sometimes clean the plows from the clumps of dirt and perhaps manure that tended to build up around the blade when plowing.

Shamgar had an ox goad and he used what he had in his hands for God, and God used him to accomplish something very special.

We are living in interesting times. Almost everyone I talk to uses the word “weird” to describe our world’s reaction to the current Coronavirus crisis. Churches have canceled their services, schools are closed, and grocery stores are running out of basic supplies. Church leaders and youth workers are certainly wondering what to do now. What do the times demand of us?

My advice is to do what Shamgar did. Use what you have!

Today we have computers, cell phones, and other means of technology. We have some tools we can use. We have the means to communicate with others – and we can do things with individuals, and we can meet in small groups. We can still minister, and we can still reach out. So, we should utilize what we have to accomplish what God has called us to do.

We don’t need to hunker down. We don’t need to retreat into our homes in fear. Ministry now will demand some creativity, some initiative, and some new looks. But it can still be done.

I’m sure that no one expected Shamgar to win with his ox goad, but he accomplished something great for God.

Like the ending of the Song of Deborah says in Judges 5:31b, “…let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength.”

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