Why Interest Groups?
BY BARRY RODRIGUEZ, ASSOCIATE PASTOR - YOUNG ADULTS
Something is stirring in the Young Adults Ministry of Grace. We are moving into a new season that looks, well…pretty unique.
Put simply, we are going to multiply our Thursday night Access worship gatherings into a whole bunch of new interest-based small groups starting on June 9. These will be available to anyone age 18 to early 30’s.
We’ll have Bible studies, art hangouts, sports groups, a coffee house discussion night, a Project Eden gardening team, and even a Marvel movies group, among others. Each of them is designed to more deeply engage the young adults of Grace in an authentic, Christ-centered community (the full list is available at gracechurch.us/youngadults).
We’re going to be kicking off our summer groups with a cookout open house on June 5 (6-8pm in the east gazebo of Dillon Park). Check out this very weird and random video we made as your invitation!
The Back Story
So. Interest groups. Why are we making such big changes?
Well, our team has been working for over a year to understand how best to reach young adults today. It’s a demographic that is slipping away from church engagement nationally, including here at Grace.
Through lots of reading, countless strategy meetings with a staff and volunteer based “Innovate” team, and ongoing engagement with the Fuller Youth Institute (www.fulleryouthinstitute.org), we realized that a broad, diverse range of interest groups would be a powerful new medium to reach young adults where they are.
I don’t have the space to go into all the reasons we believe this is the right next step for Grace’s young adults ministry, but I want to give you at least a few.
#1 - Empowered Young Adult Leaders
One of the things my team keeps running into is the importance of young adults having real authority in the church. This isn’t a pat-on-the-head, “sure you can help out” kind of leadership, but a genuine ability to shape the direction of our congregation.
This isn’t an easy thing to provide, especially in a church so full of skilled, talented adult leaders already. But it is vital that young adults play more than a token role in the “horizontal gravity” of our church if we want to remain relevant and strong.
Thankfully, by creating a network of young-adult-led interest groups, created and developed around their specific passions and gifts, we are opening the door to real opportunities to lead. And with consistent, loving coaching along the way, these young leaders will have tremendous opportunities to strengthen their leadership muscles.
#2 - New Outreach Opportunities
Another huge obstacle we’ve been facing recently is the fact that young adults today desire choice. They don’t want to be fenced in or labeled. This can be tough when we put all our eggs in the basket of one specific program or gathering and expect them all to come to us.
That’s why a diverse network of small, interest-based groups will be an ideal first step. When a young adult wants to get plugged in to our church now, they’ll be able to find many front doors based around common interests.
Plus, inviting someone to play basketball or join a book club with you is far less threatening than asking someone to go straight to a church service! In many ways, we are seeking to have our leaders take “church” with them into their worlds, and we believe it will be a great place to introduce new people to our faith community.
#3 – Communities on a Mission
The thing I am most excited to see happen, however, is the development of organic, unexpected communities on a mission. By this I mean small groups within the church that take on a kingdom mission beyond themselves. This is something our whole interest group model is based on.
Each of our leaders will know that their ultimate role is to draw other young adults deeper into intentional community. Whether by creating a new Grace Group out of the members of their interest group, or nurturing new Way of Discipleship relationships with Men’s and Women’s Ministries, or simply just loving new people into the body of our church, these leaders will now have fertile ground to help other young adults deeply connect.
Out of these connections, we believe, the Holy Spirit will orchestrate movements of faith and passion we cannot predict. Some groups may adopt a Grace partner ministry and serve them together. Others will focus on reaching a specific neighborhood with Christ’s love. Some will become advocates for the Care Center. And others will multiply in number as they draw more and more people into the kingdom of God.
Ultimately we believe these small communities, which begin simply around common interests, will grow and blossom into communities with a common mission: to expand the rule and reign of God in our world.
Obviously, I am very excited to see how God uses this new model of young adults ministry, and I am thrilled at the leadership team we are starting with. I don’t know for sure what the next few years will look like, but I know one thing: God will meet us in the midst of it!