10 guidelines for ministry to 18-29 yr olds


Why would large groups of young people who have been force-fed large doses of tolerance want to listen to preachers like Mark Driscoll?

Is it his raspy voice, black skateboarder’s jacket and white T-shirt? Or, Is it his “no-nonsense, in-your-face, I’ll talk about anything in public” style? He’s on record for refusing to be one of those “weepy worship dudes” and he has little patience for those who “sing prom songs to a Jesus who is presented as a wuss who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.” 

Is it possible that Driscoll resonates with so many young people because they have a deep sense that truth exists and matters? These “kids” have lived under the command: “Be nice, or else!” Their education has mostly occurred in a context of imposed tolerance. They’ve lived under a form of required civility prohibiting them from being too passionate about anything that upsets others.

But all along they were smart enough to see through the agenda-driven political correctness that allowed certain subjects and excluded others. They were forced to check their religious beliefs at the door. They weren’t tricked by what was happening. They knew that entire blocks of information and areas of discussion were off limits. They knew that on certain subjects only one perspective was permitted for public expression?

So perhaps they’re just fed up and Driscoll offers a kind of “fed-up with it!” style and tone that resonates. He’s a “Cut with the crap and be real!” communicator. I believe that the previous generation would have responded to Driscoll with more skepticism. But the “whatever” generation feels anchor-less and lives with a sense that a storm is on the horizon. They’ve watched their families and communities fall apart in many ways. Meanwhile they’ve been socialized to keep up a facade that says: “We have no disagreements with anyone and everybody likes everybody.” 

In an earlier post, I discussed things we should know about Americans 18-29. There I promised to suggest some guidelines for ministry to 18-29 year olds. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area but I’ve been privileged to have more than 25 years of ministry working with those in the life phase of emerging adulthood. This also happens to be the age group of our four adult children. In view of this, I offer 10 suggestions for ministry as a means to better serve those we care deeply about. I also welcome feedback (correction, expansion, explanation, etc…).

Ten guidelines for effective ministry

1. Keep it real and live what you believe.They’ve lived with too much hypocrisy. It’s been forced on them. (Matthew 23:25-28). “If the Biblical story is told truly, it will subvert the alternative stories. But to tell it truly, you have to be living it” (N. T. Wright). Or, to tell it with effect, you must be living it.

2. Be passionate without being fanatical. Many of them are tired of having the boundaries of passion defined for them by the politically “approved” beliefs.  But they also tend to be reticent about exclusivity where it shouldn’t exist. Zeal? Yes. Zeal without knowledge? No. Zeal based in love is what is needed.

3. Speak truth with boldness, clarity and transparent humility. Be unashamed about what you believe but tell them why you believe it and be humble about it. Don’t act like sinners are people other than yourself. They are drawn toward humble, loving, truth-telling Christians in community (John 13:34-35). 

4. Avoid exaggerations, overstatement and mischaracterizing generalizations. They can smell this stuff and it stinks to them! It will be a big turn off if you impugn people’s motives through exaggeration, overstatement or mischaracterizing generalizations. 

5. Avoid naive clichés and don’t be overly simplistic. They have had more access to information than any previous generation. And they’ll look it up!

6. Avoid battles not worth fighting. They’ve experienced a lot of conflict as more than half of their homes are divorced. They’ve grown up in a controversial political atmosphere over wars they’re not sure are worth fighting. They also do not care for petty political partisanship. Don’t assume the battles of your past are the ones they want to fight. In the Church, don’t fight over external and debatable matters– it”s a big turn off to them (and to God!).  (see: Romans 14:3).

7. Be parental. Many of these young people have never experienced healthy parent-child relationships. You can fill an important gap (see: Psalm 27:10).

8. Be positive and solution-focused. They’ve had their share of negativity and been exposed to problems on a global scale. They want real answers to real problems. But don’t violate # 5 when offering solutions.

9. Think world and community. This is the “connected” generation! They’ve had more global exposure than any previous generation. If you come off as “unaware” of global issues, you won’t be as effective. Yet these young people long for community. The church is a community that cannot be deconstructed when it is a community of love (see: Qualities of true love).

10. Don’t ignore issues of justice and compassion. These issues matter to them (and to God!). (See: Matthew 23:23). 

awaiting your thoughts,

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Church Leadership, Emerging Leaders, Mark Driscoll, Ministry to young singles, Single's ministry, Uncategorized, University students, Worldview, Younger Evangelicals. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 10 guidelines for ministry to 18-29 yr olds

  1. Thank you for this very insightful.timely article. I feel you were right on target with your observations and challenges.
    -Chris Chesley


  2. Pingback: The Top Blog Posts of the Week | SBC Today

  3. oysterbed7 says:

    Excellent! #5 and #9 spoke to me the most. They will keep you accountable. (My 50 year old husband looks stuff up on his iPhone during worship, too.). This is such a practical post for an issue near to my heart having children the same age.


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