I just finished the latest book from the Fuller Youth Institute entitled, Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin put together a helpful and practical book and here I want to share the top 5 thoughts that I took away from the book.
(For simplicity sake, they are in chronological order.)
- “…no major Christian tradition is growing in the US today” (16). For those of us who keep up to date with the latest polls and trends in religion, this is not a new or a surprising fact, however, it reiterates the great need and urgency that the church has to influence this generation of young people. Those who self-identity as Christians have shrunk, those who are religiously unaffiliated have grown and the largest single population in America is yearning for direction and purpose- will they be able to find it in the gospel of Jesus and the church?
- “People are our heart; Jesus is our message” (129). This phrase was the mantra of one church interviewed in research for the book. If the world understood, if Christians understood, that this phrase effectively sums up the way that we should see and engage the world, we would begin to see change happen in the world. Many of the misconceptions of Christianity and many of the conflicts churches face would be immediately fixed if we held to a “people are our heart; Jesus is our message” mantra.
- “…it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith. It’s silence” (157). If you’ve followed my blog for a while, then you already know that I am a big fan of doubt, questions and looking at things from a new perspective. Thinking critically about matters of faith doesn’t cause a person to throw that faith away, it proves that faith can stand up under the concerns of the real world. The Fuller Youth Institute has the research to back up this claim: “According to our Sticky Faith research, 7 out of 10 high school student harbor significant doubts about God and faith…One of the factors that determines their faith development is if they have opportunities to express and explore doubts. When they do have those opportunities, doubt is actually correlated with greater faith maturity” (emphasis mine, 157). Reaching young people means making place for doubts and questions.
- “First relationship, then formation. First belonging, then belief” (171). “For teenagers and emerging adults, depth of relationship opens the door to deeper exploration of belief” (171). As a church, our first job isn’t doctrine or theology, it’s being a place that’s welcoming and warm. In fact “warmth” is what 1 out of 3 people said described their church (168). Promoting warmth, family and community is not a secondary pursuit, it must be primary.
- “When we posture our work in the redemptive narrative of Jesus, good deeds are repositioned within Good News” (240). This gets to the yearning for direction and purpose that is found in all people but especially in young people and young adults. They want to see the world changed for the better and when we show them that desire matches the message of Jesus, they begin to see Jesus and the church of Jesus in a new way.
There are many other get takeaways from this book, along with practical ways to implement their suggestions. I recommend this book and hopefully these 5 thoughts give you incentive to dig into the book for yourself.
Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016.