We continue to work to make our 20s and 30s group at Northwest something better. I for one tend to be someone who types a bunch of thoughts in a blog post about this or that but I don’t always include a lot of nuts and bolts of how to get something done. This is a post I hope will help motivate others to engage their young professionals and help them to really take ownership of their faith and move toward maturity as they reach out to others, serve, and study.
Realizing There is a Need:
First, we had to realize there was a need to do something different. Homeostais is a word that means we tend to revert to what we already know and are comfortable with. Most Bible classes promote showing up, absorbing, maybe making a few comments, and returning the next week to do the same. I realized that this does not work very well with people under the age of 35 and unless we made a concentrated effort to implement something different this is exactly what we would continue doing.
Past generations have been pretty similar as change has happened both socially and technologically. This generation (Gen Y) is different. The status quo Bible class doesn’t tend to work as well for them. They do not want to be passive recipients of a fountain of knowledge. They want to engage the text, dive in, and then live it out. They need structures in place that promote actively living out their faith. They are at their best when they are serving. They take the call of Christ to be his disciples seriously and really want to do more than sit and listen.
Developing Structures that Give Opportunities for Growth to Take Place
How do you achieve that? It starts from the top down and then works from the bottom up. Someone has to stand up and say there is a better way (normally a paid staff member but it doesn’t have to be). This is a person who is willing to implement some infrastructure and organization to the group, assign tasks and responsibilities, and follow up to see how things are going. This person casts the vision for the future and starts planting seeds through Bible class topics and devos to remove barriers that could eventually stunt the growth of the group (ie classes on mutual submission, discipleship, sacrifice, etc). This person also spearheads the transition as leadership turns over after a set period of time and helps train leaders who in turn train those who come after them. That is where it turns from top down to bottom up. People start taking responsibility, planning things, doing things, creating opportunities for growth that could never have taken place with the same frequency or intensity if they were all planned by one person around that one person’s schedule. Often all people need is permission. They already have a ton of good ideas and creativity and desire for a better way but have never been told it is okay to actually try something new.
1. Define Your Objective – What are you trying to do here? Who does this include and who does it not include? If you don’t know where you are headed you will never figure out how to get there. This is not the same for each group and is not a one size fits all. Groups are different and one model does not map on to every single group. You cannot necessarily take the model from the booming church across town and translate it to your congregation.
2. Encapsulate that Objective Into a Short/Memorable Mission Statement – People need to remember what it is they are trying to accomplish/who they are becoming. If you never solidify this into a short, memorable mission statement, chances are they will never remember why they are doing what they are doing. This needs to be kept in front of the group on a regular basis so it becomes part of the DNA of the group.
3. Determine leadership needs and roles and fill those roles – In leading our group of 20 & 30 somethings I often found myself writing curriculum, doing devos, leading prayers, planning service projects, teaching class, leading singing, etc. That kept me from seeing the bigger picture. This generation wants to take ownership. They want responsibility. We determined that the following positions would be ideal:
Devotional director – someone to coordinate devotionals, line up speakers and location, and advertise to the group up coming devos.
Service coordinator – Someone to be in touch with different agencies and community programs and coordinate the times, location, and activities to serve those in our community and to advertise upcoming service projects to the group.
Social coordinator – Someone to plan and advertise just show up and have fun activities and advertise them to the group.
Encourager – This person takes the list of group members and visitors and reminds us on a weekly basis and gives us names of people who need a letter of encouragement. They are to write the names and addresses on the board weekly and prepare cards to pass through class and get signed and mailed out.
Prayer team – 4 people who will receive weekly prayer requests and are committed to praying over them on a daily basis. They are also to pray for upcoming activities and for our non-Christian group members.
4. Follow up, follow up, follow up – In order to avoid the return to what everyone is used to the group leader has to do lots and lots of follow up as people learn new roles and a higher level of expectations. The ball has to keep rolling and people have to be encouraged and reminded about what their roles are. I don’t think you have to go to micromanaging. People need freedom to make mistakes and be encouraged through those mistakes. This helps them grow into the role.
5. Meet regularly with the leadership team –This is how the goals and vision for the group is continuously passed down through the leadership to the rest of the group.
6. Communication is key – People have to know what is going on, what is coming up, and consistency. Group members need plenty of lead time on upcoming events in order to make sure they have time off, etc. Advertising is a huge part and being consistent of doing what you say you are going to do and having the events you say are coming up.
This will begin in July. We already have service projects and social gatherings on tap. We are also coordinating with area 20 and 30 something groups to try to have a bigger impact and more fellowship with others in the area. This has really freed my hands to do more administration and follow up and less nuts and bolts of the smaller details. I will keep you updated about this transition because from what I have seen it is badly needed in many of our churches but there is not that much “nuts and bolts” information out there of how to get this done. So let’s learn how to do this together.