This is a great quick read for anyone involved in Young Adult Ministry:
Even the most people-oriented ministries can fail if they’re overly structured. If you’ve come out of a youth ministry background, then you probably learned that more structure can equal greater effectiveness. But while young adults need some structure, they really want relationships. And often, structure gets in the way of relationships.
One of the ways we tend to over-structure is by constantly creating events. Effective young adult ministry isn’t event-driven. Instead, it revolves naturally around people and relationships. Our tendency is to put together events in order to help people get to know one another. This approach can work for a while, but I’ve found that young adults prefer to cultivate relationships on a daily basis, rather than monthly or quarterly. Young adult ministry functions best not by holding events for the purpose of building relationships, but by cultivating relationships that create the events.
I’ve learned that the traditional big push for a new ministry element – small groups, for example – will get a fairly decent response upfront. But over time the enthusiasm wears off. The reason is that it was promoted as a relational event – they’d get to know others and grow closer to God. This connection what they, so they give it a try. But then they get involved, don’t connect with the leader or with others in the group, and drop out. The group has become little more than an obligation, and they don’t need any more pressure to be place they don’t want to be. What started off as a desire to be relational and to grow in faith turned into religious routine.
Instead, I’ve found it most effective to offer very informal opportunities for connection – communal meals, informal conversations at a coffee shop, movie nights, study sessions – whatever provides just enough structure to get people together without getting in the way of naturally forming relationships.