Build It for Them
Last month, I began sharing some strategies and practices for reaching young adults that were offered by Sylvester and Ayana Abakah, long-time World Changers who lead the WCCI young adult ministry, SHiFT. You can read the article HERE. Young adults confront a variety of obstacles in life, some of which are unique to their generation, and they require the same wisdom to navigate life and make godly decisions as everyone else. The strategy is distinct. For a young adult who’s just trying to get by, transparency, a sympathetic ear, and a sense of connection and community can make all the difference. Here’s more wisdom from conversing with this powerful couple about how they came to work with SHiFT and their efforts at keeping young people engaged.
SHiFT is the college and young adult ministry at World Changers Church International. SHiFT isn’t an acronym; the name comes from the word that means change. It reflects how children’s church transitions kids into teen ministry, and teen ministry “shifts” them into the college and young adult ministry for continuity. It’s a full life cycle. As parents are fed in the main service, children have their own space to mature spiritually. This dedicated space shifts from literal and physical to figurative and interpersonal as children age into adults. By the time they enter SHiFT, young people are met with a community outside of their family in which others their age believe the same things they’ve learned to believe. The next stage is adulthood, where these young people come to enjoy serving in the Dome and transition into having their own families with children who begin the cycle again. The shift works in both directions: they move into and out of SHiFT.
Keeping Young Adults Engaged
“When we first started SHiFT, we just put an announcement out there, and people started coming,” Sylvester said. Many showed up and asked where they could sign up to be a part. As people poured in, the team was reminded of a famous quote from the movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.” Once young adults show up, the ministry has to keep their attention so they’ll stay. When asked about the best way to keep young adults engaged, Ayana shared, “One thing we definitely encourage is connections. Many relationships and friendships have been established within the young adult ministry. That leads to a lot of accountability. There’s accountability within the friendship groups.”
The next important aspect of keeping young adults engaged is to allow them to get involved. Ayana said, “Of course, as the leader you have a structure in place and you’re leading them, but allow them to participate and serve in ways that make sense.” Then, use God’s wisdom so that you don’t have to “reel it back in” or “pump the brakes if they say too much or go too far. Every ministry will make mistakes, but it’s important to take the chance on the very ones we want to influence and help grow spiritually.
Today’s young adults live in the age of Google and social media, so keeping them engaged in this space is equally as important as navigating life issues. It’s called life! None of us can escape it, not even young adults, but we can be victorious as life happens. We just have to be bold and courageous to take the chance and put God first. If you don’t quit, if you don’t cave in, you will win!