First Third Conversations

How Do We Get Young Adults to Come to Church?

Aaron Fuller - wrestling coach and pastorHere's the next awesome feature in our series of MA thesis posts. This one, by Aaron Fuller asks the question if the problem with twenty-somethings and the church has to do with the structure of leadership.  And yes, that really IS Aaron in the picture. 

How do we get young adults to come to church?  That’s the question that drives most churches these days.  However, they understand that to mean, “what types of ministry will draw them in?”  Those are not the same questions.

I think we have this assumption, and it’s not necessarily bad either: religious life and community is important.  It’s important, because it’s where we fully experience and encounter God through scripture, tradition, and witness; through ritual and relationship.  We want to make disciples, people committed to following Christ – a vibrant, relevant faith for life in the world.

However, I think there’s an underlying problem with that assumption: we in the church inherently place the highest value on religious life and community.  Other areas of life are important of course, but it all comes back to the life and ministry of the congregation.  And so with young adults, those in the church often think getting them to come to our doors consists of simply rearranging or repackaging some pieces of congregational life so that they’ll see it’s beneficial for their lives and in turn, they’ll make it a priority.

I’m really driven to look at what our models of congregational life and our models of leadership are communicating to young adults about the church, Christian community, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I think young adults don’t see the world or their lives as those in the church do.  Everything in their lives, while it is chaotic, holds potential for meaning, community, commitment, and belief.

I’ve come to this discovery though: if we want to create places where young adults feel invited into and will honor their lives as they are, I think we have to be really critical of our models of leadership….and from my perspective, that means multi-vocational leadership in ministry as a viable way to minister to young adults.

There are challenges in that to be sure, but the financial realities of our congregations are well known, and we know something has to be done.  Sure, multi-vocational, part-time pastors and ministers might be the answer, but I want to shift our thinking a bit.  Rather than simply thinking about it from a standpoint of financial sustainability and the church’s survivability, I think a case can be made for it theologically…..and that leads to a reflection on mission, and how vocation is understood through a lens of mission – cooperation with and witness to God’s ongoing action towards the new creation.

Well, that’s a snapshot for ya: blessing to all as they imagine new ways of leading in mission, for the sake of God’s people and the church!

Here's Aaron's full thesis:


and you can watch his presentation here: 

Aaron Fuller

Hi!  I’m Aaron.  I just graduated from Luther Seminary as a MDiv student, and now I’m off to serve as a pastor somewhere in Viriginia.  And along that mult-vocational line, I’m a husband, brother, uncle, athlete, and wrestling coach.  But above all, I’m just Aaron …. using my skills and doing what I’m passionate about because well, that’s what I do.


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