facebook script

Can't find something?

We're here to help.

Send us an email at:

[email protected]

and we'll get back with you as soon as possible.

Young adults want to be part of the church

Campus minister talking to university students

Feedback from young adult listening sessions has led the Michigan Conference Board of Young People’s Ministries to chart a way forward with new ministry offerings for 2024.

Content Editor

Last year, the Michigan Conference Board of Young People’s Ministries took time to listen to youth and young adults to understand their needs today.

Faced with a downsized Michigan Conference staff and a reduced budget to financially support the programs the Board of Young People’s Ministries supports, leadership desired feedback from young adults to inform future programming.

A group listening session was held at the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference facilitated by Rev. Elizabeth Hurd and board members. Lisa Batten conducted additional individual listening sessions, and input was given by campus ministers and those working in local churches who directly work with young people.

The listening sessions asked these questions: “What excites young people, and what gives them joy?” “What pains and hurts are young people experiencing?” “What passions do young people bring to faith communities?” “How does the Michigan Conference design new ministries or adapt existing programs where young people are centered?”

~ word cloud provided by Elizabeth Hurd

What did conference leadership hear from these gatherings? Hurd, chairperson of the Board of Young People’s Ministries, summarized the data received from the young adults by creating a word cloud. This analytical tool helped them visualize what young adults think about faith and their relationship to the church.

Words like “community” and “people” rose to the top, along with “inclusion,” “connection,” “justice,” and “loving.” There’s a hunger to connect with others in welcoming, forward-thinking communities. Hurd states, “Young people are asking for meaningful community experiences to help develop their faith, and they are willing to both engage with new ministries and seek out existing ministries that meet this desire.”

Batten, a member of the reorganized Connectional Ministries Team for the Michigan Conference, has been involved with young adult ministry for much of her professional life. She believes Christian ministry to young people, especially Gen Z and those following them, must change to meet their needs and priorities. Listening deeply and learning with curiosity are two invaluable approaches we should take as church leaders.

From the listening sessions, Batten highlighted four priorities for young adults she heard:

    • Peer relationships: Young adults seek space to come together in meaningful ways.
    • Inclusive spaces: Young people want a place where they and their peers can be welcomed and included.
    • Wesleyan theology: Young people seek a faith, a progressive belief system, where love is centered in kind and inclusive ways.
    • Meaning-making spaces: Young people desire a place to find meaning, where what they do has value.

Many young people are deeply religious and seek spiritual connection and community, but they are wary of any church structure that is not life-giving, loving, or centered on Christ. They are also wary of insular, inflexible communities that are not willing to go beyond the four walls of their building and stand up for issues that matter to them, including LGBTQ+ inclusion, antiracism, caring for the unhoused, addressing food insecurity, and combating climate change.

These are generalizations gleaned from the data received from the listening sessions, but one of the most important lessons is to listen and ask questions with openness and curiosity. Churches can also model this practice as they seek to be in ministry with young adults. According to Hurd, it’s important to ask young adults what they’re passionate about and point them to opportunities in the church that speak to those passions.

She explained this engagement further, “Do they care about food justice? Maybe your church makes sandwiches to feed folks, or maybe you’re doing a food drive or offering a free Thanksgiving meal to the community. Do they care about mental health? Invite them to participate in Advocacy Day on March 13! Maybe they love music? Invite them to join the choir or praise band. Find the places your church is already living into those ministries.”

Young adults in conversation
Young adults gathered at the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference for a listening session. ~ photo courtesy Elizabeth Hurd

Batten has already witnessed young people finding meaningful community experiences through recent conference ministry opportunities. There was a retreat setting where nine young adults gathered for an overnight retreat to learn Christian contemplative practices and fellowship with one another. At last year’s annual conference, a high number of youth engaged in various ways. In a recent young adult cohort, participants learned about discernment and engaged in a retreat to consider what’s next for them in life and ministry.

Based on the results of the listening sessions and the desire to engage the needs of young people today, the Board of Young People’s Ministries is planning the following ministry opportunities for 2024, with more information about each one coming out soon:

    • The Nearness project will start on several college campuses through our Michigan Conference campus ministries in February. Nearness is a 10-week program via Zoom that provides tools and conversation starters for small groups of young adults.
    • Young adults, ages 18-26, who are discerning a call to professional ministry can join others in Orlando, FL, for a weekend event called Exploration. The Board of Young People’s Ministries is offering grants to assist with travel. February 1 is the deadline to apply.
    • An in-person meeting will be held later this spring for young adults who participated in the Nearness project.
    • A new summer intern program called Connexion, emphasizing the relationships and bonds we have as a connectional church, will be launched this year. Young adults post-high school, ages 18-29, will be placed in a local United Methodist congregation, nonprofit organization, or campus ministry. The program emphasizes connection to God through regular spiritual practices, connection to the community through a service- and justice-focused role, and connection to each other through weekly small peer group meetings.
    • A young adult gathering event will happen at the 2024 Michigan Annual Conference (more details to come).
    • A young adult retreat will happen sometime this fall (more details to come).

Batten is glad to share these offerings with young adults in the Michigan Conference, and more information about each will be communicated through MIconnect. She concluded, “I am excited to see what God will do in our midst as we open ourselves to new ways of being in ministry with young adults. We are building on a strong legacy of ministry with young people and continue a commitment to this new generation.”

Despite ongoing funding challenges within the Michigan Conference, the Board of Young People’s Ministries has planned these programs with the needs and priorities of young people in mind. Hurd is honest about our financial situation and hopes to find creative ways inside and outside the conference to fund young adult ministry in the future.

She said, “My focus as chair is on finding ways to build financial responsibility and sustainability, so budget cuts don’t mean cutting our vital ministries. Our young people want them! They want to be a part of them. Young people want to be a part of the church! So, while working toward financial sustainability isn’t exactly the flashiest of ministries, it is the necessary bureaucratic work that helps us continue offering community-building, loving, Christ-centered, connected ministries that reach young people.”

If you have questions for the Board of Young People’s Ministries or any of these new programs, contact Rev. Elizabeth Hurd, chair, at [email protected] or Lisa Batten, Connectional Ministries Team staff member, at [email protected].

Last Updated on January 31, 2024

The Michigan Conference