During the coming summer, young adults in your church, as well as their friends, may have time ― and skills ― to share.
Creating opportunities for young adults to engage with the church and community can be easy and the opportunities can benefit them as well as those they serve.
Young adults, whether in high school, college or beginning their own entrepreneurial ventures, need to develop a work portfolio. Many yearn for opportunities to affirm their skills and talents. Many also have a strong desire to serve and make a positive difference.
You can provide these young people with a valuable experience while letting them contribute to the church and the community.
Before you start, make sure someone can provide coaching and whatever supervision is necessary. After you or other church members have expressed your needs and desired outcomes, step back and let the young people perform.
As much as possible, avoid assigning tasks that require ongoing supervision. If you micromanage, you will take ownership of the project away from the young people, and they may abandon the effort.
Let them know that as many aspects of the project as possible are theirs.
Great ways for young people to help the church
Revamp the welcome packet: Your church might have a welcome packet and brochures. If the materials are outdated or you have no packet, this is a perfect project for a young person who is building a graphic-design portfolio.
Invite him or her to transform the existing resources into something new, with a cohesive and appealing look and brand. Visitors will respond more favorably to your information. The young person will be able to add the project to his or her portfolio, maybe also sharing your church's name and brand with their network.
Sermon series marketing packs: If you do sermon series throughout the year, ask young people interested in marketing and design to develop a marketing plan and promotional materials.
Let them help you come up with the names of series and then develop themes and design posters, publicity materials and social media campaign options to promote the church and the sermon series. They will build great relationships with church leaders and take pride in their contributions.
Get-it-done summer: Many young people are familiar with short-term missions. Why not develop a to-do list of local mission projects?
Start with members of the congregation, then extend into the community with online submission forms. Invite retirees in the congregation to mentor the young people.
Local midday missions: Almost every community has mission agencies that can use help during the week. Contact your conference Volunteers in Mission coordinator to find out about good service opportunities. Another great resource is VolunteerMatch, an organization that connects good people to great local causes.
Ask staff members of soup kitchens, homeless shelters and at-risk youth centers about their needs. Young adults will enrich their lives as they work with friends and help their community. Keep a list of places for youth and young adults to volunteer. Let them contact the ministry.
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Story archive project: If you have some budding historians, sociologists or journalists, ask them to build a story archive for the church.
All churches, no matter the age or size, have a history, and the people of the church have stories to tell. The young people might compile a history of the church and produce a book.
Another option is collecting a series of audio and video interviews with church members. They can tell stories of the church, of the people of the church and of their own spiritual life. When members are gone, you will have a library full of interviews, providing memorable connections.
More modern telling of these stories could be captured in infographics about the church or a person ― or use them to accompany the audio or video interviews. Use sites such as Piktochart or Canva to begin.
Young people's studies and small groups: While college students are home for the summer, encourage one or two of them to start a small-group study for their peers. Support them by providing the books and space, picking up a coffee tab and giving contact information for leaders.
Charge these young organizers with leading others in studying the Bible, discussing a book or developing an accountability group. The results may surprise you. This can blossom into a seasonal ministry that bears real and visible fruit of keeping young adults connected to the church as they search spiritually.
House worship band: Summer is a perfect time to try some new ideas in worship. Gather a few of your young musicians, give them space to practice as a band and ask them to lead Sunday worship during the summer.
Most congregations will OK changes in worship when they know they are for a specific period. For the young people, the time can be life-changing and open them to new callings.
Artists in residence: Commission a visual artist (painter, sculptor or photographer) to create a gallery of works to display in the church. Commit some money to this project.
The results will be a fresh, new look in those areas of the church that people frequent. It will also give new glimpses into your church and community. When the gallery opens, the church can host a party.
For more ideas about incorporating art in church, read "Art needs the church: How to create artisan communities."
It takes little investment of money or time to reconnect with the young people of the church during the summer months. They have time, needs and a passion to help those who are willing to invest in them.
Young people have many gifts and talents to offer the church. We just need to invite and encourage them.
Be a place that gives permission to God's young people.
Darby Jones is a former email marketing manager for United Methodist Communications.