Growing Young Cohorts

November 09, 2017 | Growing Young | David Yeagley

“Young adult ministry isn’t about church hype, but church health.”

This statement from Jake Mulder, director of strategic initiatives at Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and co-author of the book Growing Young, served as the cornerstone of a yearlong learning adventure sponsored by FYI known as the “Growing Young Cohort.” Leaders from 11 churches across the North Pacific Union, including three Washington Conference congregations, met in Pasadena, Calif., Oct. 5–6, 2017, to reflect on the latest research, realign their ministry priorities and craft a plan to equip their congregations to love young adults better.

Over the course of the next year, these congregations will assess their congregational health, meet with their leadership teams, dream and pray with other cohort churches, and create a strategy for change all under the guidance of some of the best ministry experts in the country. When the cohort is complete, these 11 churches will serve as anchor points for a fresh approach to young adult ministry across the Northwest.

The Growing Young Cohort is based on groundbreaking research by FYI that surveyed 259 churches from a wide variety of backgrounds that were actively engaging youth and young adults. After more than 10,000 hours of work and 1,300 interviews, the researchers identified six key commitments these churches had in common: key-chain leadership, empathy for youth and young adults, Jesus’ message is taken seriously, warm relationships, prioritization of youth and families, and a commitment to be the best neighbor. These six commitments provide the framework for the healthy congregations that are impacting the lives of the emerging generation.

Already the Growing Young Cohort is bringing meaningful change to the churches of the Washington Conference. Dustin Serns, Port Orchard Church pastor, brought four of his leaders to the opening session of the cohort in Pasadena. “Getting to have my leaders with me and having them interact with other churches helped our next steps rise to the top,” says Serns. “We’ve added young adult ministry to our church budget and empowered new leadership. Best of all the church is excited about what God is doing.” Two Seattle churches, Emerald City under the leadership Eugene Lewis, and Volunteer Park pastored by Andreas Beccai, have also begun to implement new strategies for change.

“The church can’t grow young unless we are willing to grow together,” Mulder told the group of cohort churches. “When we focus on young people, everyone rises.” The Growing Young Cohort is a first step in an exciting journey that will empower young adults and bring life and wholeness to the churches of the Washington Conference.