5 Suggestions to Attract Young People to Church

I have never met a church which didn’t want to reach young people. Every church sees the value in younger people becoming a an active part of the church. They know the future life of the church depends upon it.

The problem is often the church doesn’t act like what they claim to value.

If a church is more interested in protecting traditions, for example, than it is in creating a future, then it will most likely fail to attract young people.

At least that’s been my experience.

If a church is interested in attracting young people, it must think strategically about doing so. And, let’s be honest- we are all figuring out this subject. I’m totally open to learning from you. These are just some things I’ve observed. 

Here are 5 suggestions for attracting young people to church:

Value them and their ideas

Young people will want to do things differently. They see things differently. We must give them a voice and an access to authority. This doesn’t mean we have to change anything we believe or teach, but it does mean we have to listen to them and not dismiss what’s on their heart and minds. I’ve found I must make time in my schedule for the younger generation. I need to engage them regularly. They want to know me personally. But, when I do, it’s huge to them – and I have more credibility to speak into their life. (And, it fuels me personally.) 

Give them a place to serve

Find ways to let young people assist others. It’s a huge value for them. For the newer generation, it appears service may be the new front door. They will care more about serving than they will about “membership”. They want to make a difference meeting real needs. I’ve discovered they like hands on experiences. And, they usually aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. 

Be genuine with them

Young people can spot phonies. Let them see you are real. Authentic and transparent have been admired cultural values all their life – so they will accept nothing else. Be honest with them – about your shortcomings, your flaws and your fears. Let them learn from your mistakes and the things you did right.

Love them

Young people want to sense they are loved – even when they mess up. In my experience, young people want a safe place to be transparent and they want you to love them even when they do things – and believe things – of which you wouldn’t approve. If you want an opportunity to speak into their life, they have to know you genuinely care for them. 

Guide them

Young people want direction and they want to learn from your experience. If you talk about the concept of mentoring – they are into it. If a more experienced person is willing to invest in them – they’ll listen. This is a huge opportunity for the church in reaching a newer generation.

These are a few of my observations. Feel free to add your own. There are so many things drawing our young people’s attention these days. The opportunities before them are unlimited. And, frankly, church is only one small option for most of them. We must be intentional and strategic if we want to reach them. 

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 44 Comments

  • I agree with you that churches should always value the ideas of the youth because that would be a important way to make them feel that their voice matter while the older people in the church try to guide them through their growth. My family will be moving to a suburban area later this year so it would take some time to adjust. Perhaps, finding a family friendly church can help us integrate better into the new community.

  • Henry Kibett says:

    Awesome piece…… that place of loving them has touched me…. many times I have assumed that they are grown up and they should know what is right and wrong. You’ve challenged me to listen to them.

  • jimpemberton says:

    This is a great list to start with. Our minds often quickly go to the great tension between what our elderly want and what our youth want. There are older forms that honor our elderly and are more comfortable for them. Because our culture has been changing quickly in recent years there are new forms that resonate more readily with our youth.There is a sense in which we must embrace both. But it also makes it difficult for the elderly who have won the battle in their church and resisted the newer cultural forms subsequently losing the fellowship of the next generation and the opportunity to help them mature in the faith.

    The thing that is difficult to understand is that the Gospel transcends human culture. This principle is one of the most important factors made it spread so quickly in the Roman empire early on. The empire was culturally pluralistic. The truth of the Gospel comes with a variety of biblical metaphors not to mention acceptable extra-biblical metaphors that are capable of making the Gospel understandable in any context. My mind always goes to Don Richardson's Peace Child, where he finally found the cultural explanation of the Gospel to the Sawi people in a most dramatic act of sacrificial peace-making.

    In the same way, older generations of Christians must learn to pour the Gospel into younger generations of people in the forms that make the most sense to the younger people. This must be done in such a way as to not compromise the Gospel while calling younger people to that which transcends both the older culture and the younger culture so that they will learn to do the same when they grow old. The key is in using various cultures, not to be comfortable, but to communicate the Gospel in every way possible.

  • Teresa says:

    The problem is that Christians don't really know what Church is anymore. Nowhere in the Bible is it stated that it's a "place" you go; rather Church is the Body of Christ (a "Who.") Children get pushed aside into Children's Church or other programs, but the NT Church was a Body of believers–regardless of age. Our children need to understand that being a Church is about being in a daily relationship not only with Jesus but also with fellow believers. I think we've missed that in our culture. http://www.calhounbelievers.com

  • […] 5 Ways to Attract Young People to Church by Ron Edmondson […]

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with a poster above to some degree about not lumping all young people together. There are only a few other people around my age, and it seems like there is an expectation for us to band together or something. Just because someone is younger doesn't mean they only want to relate to people their age. In relation to the young couple at my Church I find that there are just other people in the congregation I connect with more on an interests and communicative level that are totally not even in the same age group as me. I think it may (at least in my case) be a matter of finding common ground with other members as in interests etc. Age can be a matter of common ground, but I think at the core most of us would define our essence and who we are more to do with inner attributes. Age can be a starting place, but it may not be a place of depth or where we find meaningful connection at.

    • ronedmondson says:

      You are right. It's impossible to put everyone into one category. Sociologist continue to categorize generations, and it helps us understand them, but everyone is unique

  • ronedmondson says:

    I'm sorry you had this experience. We've advertised for exchange students several times in our church. Maybe you've been trying the wrong church.

  • nunot says:

    I can't speak for other people. But church has nothing to offer me. What would I want a church to be? I would want a supportive community where I can have friends and where I could contribute the things that I can and where people would care about me.

    But instead, all I have found at churches is a bunch of narrow minded, judgmental, self righteous, uptight, people who are turned inward toward their little community. They don't have open hearts or open minds.

    Here is an example, I was trying to find host families for only two weeks for a few exchange students. I contacted local churches to see if any members would be willing to host a student for two weeks (from a country that has few christians so it is an opportunity to introduce children to christianity) and the churches did not just refuse to have anything to do with hosting, the churches refused to even post information or put the word out so that their members could decide whether they wanted to host or not. They just said that their members were too busy with their own lives to be put out by having a guest in their home. Well, how giving and charitable of them. How dedicated to spreading the word of God.

    Christianity is no longer a warm and caring religion with the spirit to bring in new converts. Modern American christians seem to be mostly cold and nasty hearted, selfish people who only think about themselves and their small group. Ugly, ugly, ugly. It was a big reminder to me of why I don't go to church.

    Why would I want to go to church? I can pray on my own. Why would I want to go to services and be surrounded by mean, stuck up people? Of course, they think they are wonderful people if they do say so themselves. That is part of their belief system–that they are so wonderful and kind and righteous. But they aren't. Their actions speak for themselves. If they were any of the things they think they are, then young people wouldn't be leaving church in droves.

    In ten years, most of the current white hairs will be in their graves, and who will be in the pews? My guess is many churches are going to be empty. It is easy to see why people aren't going to church. I fail to see why anyone would bother.

  • […] 5 Ways to Attract Young People to Church […]

  • Kyle Reed says:

    These are all great thoughts Ron. I think you demonstrate the well in your leadership. I appreciate that.

    I think I would just add in some plus 1's for a couple of the ones that you shared. Value ideas and a place to serve is huge. I remember in high school being able to be apart of the worship team. that was a huge opportunity for me to serve as well as be creative with ideas. I got to help plan service, pick out music and take a bigger role in serving.

    And then to maybe add to the other ones would be the share. Meaning, share life experience from the past, share opportunities that you are getting today (whatever your job may be or serving things you do invite them along) share life advice.

    Thanks for writing this. Very important topic

    • ronedmondson says:

      I love when our high school students serve in big roles…and they do…all over our church. Thanks Kyle.

  • @Sohl says:

    I think the key point is being genuine, but I would add to it this way: be *proactively, uncommonly* genuine in such a way that the minister can firmly guard against hypocrisy, and be honest and transparent at every opportunity. It's not exactly about young people "being able to spot the phonies." It's about young people wanting to know they can follow someone's *true* example with conviction. That means modeling Jesus as best you can, while also sharing your true self.

    To use a metaphor: so many Americans outsource their whole identities to groups and organizations, churches included. As young people are just now trying to figure out where to find their identities, what they do *not* want is for you to refer them to the campaign sign in your front yard. What they want is for you to invite them lovingly into your home to get to know you.

  • ronedmondson says:

    I agree Uma. I love the word mentor here in this discussion.

  • Becky

    Love these ideas!

  • @Bryankr says:

    Patience! The Church I'm in now is not real big in having the Youth working in anything going on, they want them involved, but they just don't seem to understand that these guys need someone to not only teach, but to allow them to make mistakes and grow from them!

  • Darrell says:

    I think the idea of generational unity is something that is not addressed far enough. Its not all on the "old" people to accept the young people, but as one of those young people it is important that we also understand the importance of those who have gone before us.

    Lets me somewhere in the middle in unity, a generation unity.

  • Brian says:

    acknowledge that they exist and they are the church now and not when they grow up

    Empower them

  • Jason Adkins says:

    Foster a Titus 2:1-6 kind of lifestyle for young people. Teach them to value older, godly Christians. For younger women, this means receiving instruction from more mature women, and for younger men, this means learning self-control from more mature men in the congregation.

  • Please do not take them for granted. Make them feel that they are part of the system and are adding value to it.

    Rebuke them and correct them when they deviate. Encourage and motivate them when they are innovative and give them the credit for their achievement. Mentor them and insipre them — they will emulate great ones like you later.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Absolutely. Thank you

  • Glenn W says:

    Don't continuously tell single people they need to get married, Don't tell newlyweds to start families.
    Single people are single for a reason by choice or circumstance and they do not need to come to church every week to reminded how lonely they are. Also Don't look at single people as not being a whole person, instead value them they they are able to give more time in volunteer hours and service, but when you use them don't abuse them and make sure you include them in outtings and trips to resturants.

    Newlyweds may be trying to have a child but have not been successful do not need to come to church an made to feel they are incomplete or worthless because they do not have children. Some couples are never able to have children as in the case with my wife and I, However we are often looked upon as less adequate to do something despite our achievements in church, the work force and life.

  • Micah says:

    Be intentional, which I'm sure is implied. But to intentionally go to the youth not just the "oh no we made eye contact so I guess I should talk to them" moment. Intentionality is key for youth feeling like the belong in a church.

  • alszambrano says:

    Don't segregate them. So many churches lump all the young people together all the time – youth groups, youth retreats, youth game nights, youth service events, youth this, youth that – how are they ever to learn to become a part of the body when they're always separated out?

    So many young people come from broken families and are desperately looking for a family environment in which they belong. The church is the perfect place to foster that kind of environment.

  • @robrash says:

    Totally agree with you Ron and Jonathan. Great points. The desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves is huge. They don't want to just spectate.

  • This kinda goes along with giving them a place to serve, but young people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves… Show them how they're making difference and how the church is changing lives. Great thoughts, Ron!

  • Cameron Paterson says:

    Show respects to them… As they are usually not respected in the community, they are looked down on.

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