Building a Young Church: Part Two Validation

As we continue to talk through some of the essential building blocks for building a young church, or a church of young adults, we next turn to the key element of validation.

Validation is an organizational priority of authentic engagement. This is often accomplished by the investment of capital (monetary, leadership, and facilities) to give more specific attention and placement of an emphasis on the ministry for that group.

If a church desires to grow their young adult base, a key step in evaluating whether or not they are validating, or willing to validate, effective environments for young adults. This isn’t about creating plastic rooms that meet a specific ratio for hipster style low lighting, but it is about having appropriate textures and spaces that facilitate ministry connection for a young adult crowd. The same environments and methods used to reach and keep senior adults are not as effective for young adults.

For many young adults in their 20s and 30s, a key to workplace happiness is the intentional validation of their efforts and roles. While this certainly is a universal rule, it is often the case that this age group will work at jobs longer where they are given appropriate validation and recognition by their leadership. Articles which have mentioned this kind of managerial insight have appeared in business publications including Forbes Magazine. Now, if you’re knee-jerk reaction to that statement is to roll your eyes and gripe about entitlement then perhaps that is part of the problem.

This isn’t about some kind of psychologically programmed post-adolescent coddling, but it is instead the result of a desire to know where, in a world of hurts, harms, and hang-ups, that a person belongs and contributes. Validation for a young adult ministry isn’t about being the full time focus and effort of a church onto that group, but is, instead, about being mindful of their presence.

While an institutional building, metal folding chairs, bad coffee, and mint green walls are a non-issue for other generations, for young adults highly validated spaces for their group gatherings, fellowship times, and service represent a kind of mindfulness about their presence that they appreciate. For so many young adults the aesthetic of their experience is as important as the script of a video, the Bible passage being considered, and the conversation that takes place.

This means that churches which are appropriately providing validated young adult environments have a strong tendency to attract and keep young adults.

As a result, when we think strategically about these environments we should keep in mind that mixing in a reinforcement of the church culture will be as important to motivating young adults to service and missions as making an announcement.

Just like how a comfortable coffee shop makes a more conducive environment for conversation, reflection, and work, appropriately validated young adult ministries tend to allow for greater movement and growth (specifically relational and spiritual) for strategically minded churches.

Some key questions for evaluation might include:

  • In our current facility, how much space is specifically designed for young adults and their children?
  • When we talk about events or activities in our publications and on Sundays, what percent of space is given to young adult activities?
  • How often are young adults featured in roles of service and missions?
  • As it relates to our children’s spaces, are they conducive to easy check-in and provide a sense of security?
  • Are the sermons we preach using illustrations and examples from media in the 70s and 80s or from the last five years?
  • Is there a prioritized space for young adults to connect that isn’t a classroom?
  • How much of our programming dollars and hours go to creating events and activities that meet the priority needs of young adults in our church and community?
  • Do young adults have ways of providing feedback and generating new ministry ideas as much as established generations in our church?


This certainly isn’t a deal breaker for a community, but it is an important step. As we turn to our next part of this discussion let’s consider what it looks like to provide effective programming and ministry models for young adult ministries.


Creating a Culture of Excellence in Ministry

This week is Vacation Bible School at Sugar Creek, where I serve, so apologies for the late posting.

Out of the many conversations that can had with staff members, one of the critical ones which seems to filter down to every level concerns excellence. In creating activities, environments, and ministry most growing churches talk about creating these things with excellence. For many ministry leaders, excellence is a mark to which we push our staff members.

Yet we’ve all had that moment where we realize that not everyone defines excellence the same way.

During my time in the business school of my undergrad studies, we talked about organizational and personal excellence. There was a constant drum being beaten by our professors and deans of “Be excellent as we are excellent!” (Kind of a business take on Leviticus 19:2.) The drum also was carried through at the mother church of the university where we were given examples of ministries and ministers doing excellent things. One of the principal textbooks that we had in more than one class was Tom Peter’s landmark In Search of Excellence. Back in 1982, Peter’s wrote this book based on his consulting experience where he boiled down successful companies into 8 core themes. Though the reports of him “faking the data” are greatly exaggerated, one of my takeaways from the book had to do with the intentionality of excellence.

We most often see truly excellent experiences from people who have the dedication of intentionality and professional acumen of experience to produce high quality (not inherently high cost) moments.

In ministry, the mark of excellence is often adjusted differently between departments and even between people. Excellence isn’t a virtue of the same distinction.

However, for senior leaders in ministry, the task is to recognize and validate excellent experiences and bring our staff along to see and taste what is truly excellent. It is hard for anyone who has only had access to Waffle House to describe the entire experience of eating a Ruth’s Chris steak. So to show our staff members what excellence looks like will often help them meet that qualification in their ministries. This requires the intentionality and willingness of ministry leaders to find these experiences and take their staff out to them.

For excellence to be a shared value across the board in our staff, our staff need to share the example of excellence.

What makes one event excellent and another mediocre is often only a set of relatively minor adjustments, but it is a world of difference. Those adjustments take experience and exposure. When our staff gets them and implements them celebrations are necessary. Creating a culture of excellence in ministry is key for any church or ministry. It allows us to validate the involvement of our people. It allows them to see that we are being effective stewards. It makes our church and ministry better.

Jun 2013