For London-based Equipping People Church, if churches want to reach and engage young adults, they have to focus on four key areas.
Equipping People Church is a thriving church in south London. Pastor Akinola Abiona has seen the church grow, particularly amongst young adults. Here he shares some of EPC’s story and some lessons he has learnt about welcoming young adults.
Equipping People began as a church plant of the New Covenant Church UK in 2015. Our vision is to raise a generation, mostly of young adults, who are passionate about life-transformation, directed in their discipleship and feel equipped as leaders to serve their communities.
As people join our online service, we’re really conscious about creating a seeker-friendly ‘digital foyer’ that demonstrates what to expect during the service and quickly gives a flavour of what we’re about. The same could be experienced in our physical church foyer where, as people arrive, they receive a warm greeting and information on parking, children’s facilities and much more. We believe it’s important to create a warm and positive first impression that makes those joining our service feel at home and at ease straight away.
It’s not just those first few minutes that welcome people, though; the content of our services is designed to reassure people throughout that they are welcome and valued as a part of our community, even if it’s their first time. For example, we ensure what we say and the language we use – including the choice of Bible translation – is accessible and relatable to both seasoned worshippers and the unchurched. The Sunday talks are fresh, Christ-focused and challenging, empowering those gathered to become change agents in their communities, something that’s really important to young adults.
Community is at the heart of a good welcome. As soon as young adults enter our churches, it’s important that they are connected with others.
At our church, new members are encouraged to join a small group and attend the church’s membership sessions, which give new members an opportunity to ask questions, learn more about the Christian faith and meet others. The process of integrating new members is a great opportunity for young adults in the church, who are passionate about serving others, to get involved in the life and ministry of the church.
To attract a young adult audience, we ensure there’s a fair representation of young adults in our central leadership. We empower them to:
- Lead small groups. We encourage young adults to run our Connect groups or cell groups to attract their peers. This will prepare them for other leadership responsibilities.
- Lead events and teams. Those who possess leadership potential are encouraged to lead some of our events (such as outreach, care kitchens, awareness programmes, and fellowships) or support those leading.
- Lead at the core level. After praying and going through a thorough selection process, we promote those who have done well in their initial responsibilities to the church’s operational leadership. Meanwhile, those who have shown deeper spiritual potential could be identified and encouraged to undergo training in preparation for core responsibility at a later date.
- Lead the church’s new plant. Ultimately, those with ministerial calling, having gone through the right preparation and leadership training, could be released to plant new branches.
Young adults should be empowered in the church through:
- Teaching. Sermons must be life-transforming and deliberately tailored to reflect biblical solutions to real-life issues faced by young adults.
- Discipleship. Regular programmes reinforce spiritual depth as well as develop the discipleship lifestyle and leadership skills of the young adults.
- Leadership preparation sessions. We put in place leadership preparation programmes that train young adults who are being developed for ministerial roles.
Your church vision should be simple, clear and adaptable, while your values must be attractive to a young demographic. We must never compromise being Christ-centered, but we must be culturally relevant. Young adults will switch off if they feel our church is not connecting with the world around it.
The events and activities we host play a huge part in whether our church is attractive to newcomers, and if we want to attract a younger audience, our online presence must become our ‘digital foyer’ for all events, both in person and online.
Our communities must foster a welcoming and engaging atmosphere where visitors feel included and welcomed from the moment they find us on social media. Our interactions should be characterised by authenticity if they are to appeal to young adults in any meaningful way.
Ultimately, the attractiveness of our churches and how welcoming they feel is driven by the culture we foster. Church culture is a reflection of how both current members and new arrivals feel, and it can either be transformational, fun and inclusive or cold, dull and segregating. Michael Fletcher, author of Empowering Leadership, wrote: “To change an organisation, you must first shift the culture. And to change the culture of a church, you must change the language.” Your culture is determined by the way you connect but also by how you communicate.
This blog is part of 7 Conversations, a suite of interactive, integrated resources for leaders in local settings seeking to understand young adults and bring them into a rock-solid relationship with Jesus.
The article was originally published here
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Our in-person services always include an opportunity to grab coffee and snacks and meet the people who make our church such a warm and life-transforming place. First-timers are given a welcome pack, and by the following day someone from the church leadership will be in touch to thank them for coming and invite them to come again.
This is some of what my church does practically, but having led a church where 70 per cent are in their 20s and 30s, I have identified four areas that I believe are instrumental to any church wanting to reach and engage young adults: integration, deployment, empowerment, attraction (IDEA).