Age-level Ministries

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What Young People Want from the Church – Samuel S. Yun

Need > Want

There is a young adult in my ministry who is relatively new to the faith. She started attending worship with the sister of her boyfriend, heard a message one Sunday morning that moved her to tears and is now a participant in our young adult ministry called OpenCircle. She was baptized and received into membership on Palm Sunday and, for me, represents why I'm in ministry and why I do what I do.

If you were to ask her what she wants from church, I think this is what she would say: "I want a safe and sincere place where I can go intentionally deeper in my Christian faith and learn as much as possible what I don't know already. And I want the church to help me make a difference."

She may not be the typical young adult who hypes about being "spiritual but not religious" or who vocally scrutinizes about the irrelevance or insincerity of the church. But she is, for me, the young adult to whom I want to minister and the type for whom the church exists. As much as it is important to ask, "What do young people want from the church?" I think it is equally, if not more, important to ask, "What do young people need from the church?"

In many ways, I think we know what the church needs to be, not just to young adults, but to all who hunger and yearn for a real, deep and meaningful faith. Young adults need the church to be the church – the place where faith is taken seriously, where the experience of depth and intentionality trumps the mode of "people pleasing" and "consumer oriented" methods of ministry, and where Jesus is not watered down. Young people want their spiritual hunger and search to be taken seriously. They don't need or want "theology-lite" or some sort of fast-food spirituality wrapped in concert lights and a soundtrack. They simply want to hear, experience and receive truth.

The Rev. Samuel S. Yun, 46, is minister of young adults at Los Altos (California) United Methodist Church. He is a 1995 graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary.