Reggie Joiner – CONNECT to 18-23 year olds – at Catalyst 2010

What the church is going to be is in the hands of the twenty-somethings.

He showed various stats that demonstrate how in the USA there is a big drop off from kids work; so that in high school you’ve lost half, and at college it’s down to 10%. That has been happening for a couple of decades. Something needs to change!

If you have 100 kids in sunday school, imagine there only being 11 of them still there at 20. That’s the reality. (I wonder what the figures are for the UK church – I imagine it’s a far bleaker picture).

At 18, if they connect with a church, only 6% leave later!

So we need to focus a lot of energy at those 18-23.

They are disappearing from the landscape of our churches. So we need to think more strategically about that age group.
The church is programmed to draw a finish line at 18 – ‘now you’re on your own.’ Kids get abandoned at that age. They don;t know where the next step is.

We have to move the finish line back to 23 – for all kinds of practical reasons. We have to follow up those 18 & on very intentionally. We know the names of the 7 year olds and follow them through – do we know the names of the 19 year olds?

There is a natural tendency for kids at about 18 to disengage fro what they have always done. So, something NEW needs to be done – not necessarily a program issue. So church teams have to wrestle with this, and move the finish line.

We treat an 18 year old like an adult. But none of the experts suggest that’s the case – they are moving toward adulthood. That happens as you get healthy in 3 areas –


When the kids don’t cost you anything they’re adults.

Move the finish line!

Recognise how critical this age range 18-23 is.
We hear about ‘Student ministry’ but it’s not just about students – it’s ‘Young Adults.’

We can’t just leave this to eg Fusion, YFC, para church uni ministries etc. They do a great job – but this has to effect the local church. They are NOT the church. There is a need for INTERGENERATIONAL relationships, not just peer-to-peer. There’s something they need from those a stage beyond them.

What are we doing to meet that intergenerational need? Are they connected? Young leaders need to be intentional about inviting older leaders into their lives for mentoring etc.

You don’t have to be in a university area for this to matter to you. There are millions who don’t go to uni but when they come out of high school – what’s the plan for them?

We can’t just give up on this. It isn’t about a program- but about relationships. Building relationships. How do we get into their lives? It’s not about having a cool band etc. It’s not about appealing to them by looking cool. This generation doesn’t need that – they are hungry for authenticity. You just have to love them.

There IS enough budget for this, because it’s not about spending a lot of money.

This is NOT a staff position. This is not really something you hire in and hand over. It means everyone looks at 18-23 year olds in a different way. Seeing its a CRITICAL time.

People have even said, ‘they’ll only leave in their twenties anyway.’ Wow. Why did you bother doing any kids work at all if you don’t want to keep them.

These kids are coming to your church, your city. Will you help them grow? Will you keep them close to Jesus? What are you going to do if they show up.

Mark Batterson moved to Washington to start a coffee shop to reach 20 somethings. They now have a massive turnover in his church, they come and go. He doesn’t see that as a bad investment. He sees that they’re in a critical season, crafted for where they are going next for God.

Myth that’s pushed = ‘This is the age where they have to work out their faith on their own now.”

But NONE of us can do our faith alone. We’re not designed or even supposed to. That’s what church is supposed to be.

So what should you do? I don’t know…

Wrestle with this. Do something.

Eg., Find ways for them to stay relationally connected to the ones who were in their kids/youth group. Facebook group? Meet for coffee? Go and visit each other? Arrange holidays together? To help them translate the ups and downs (like if parents divorce etc?).

Do NOT disconnect at 18, when the stakes are the highest. The most important decisions are NOW!

Do not disconnect from relationships when the FELT NEED for that is highest!

If you’re 18-23 reading this, the most important thing to do is to be intentional to connect with older trusted leaders.

If you’re a parent, make sure this is happening for your kids – that they are connecting with other older people not just you.

We as leaders must –

  • Ask – what are we doing to invest in the lives of 18-23 year olds. Do we help them find churches if they move to a different place? How will they connect to a place of faith there if we don’t help them through the process?
  • Enlist those in the church who the TEENS say have already had influence in their lives and saying to them, ‘Will you STAY involved now?’
  • Be involved in intentionally investing ourselves with someone in this 18-23 age group.

Let’s see them now in a different light – put a new antennae up for them. Connect with them, do life with them!