Everyone loves a home run. The crack of the bat, the leisurely jog around the bases, the high fives, the curtain call–it’s why people go to the ballpark. It’s energizing–it’s electric–it’s intoxicating. In ministry it’s no different, we love to swing for the fences, we love the feeling of being in a packed auditorium, with perfect music, perfect lighting, perfect preaching, and a tangible, quantifiable altar response. We feel good when we hit a “home run”. I’m convinced in too many of our ministries–we’ve come to rely on “the long ball” when we should be concerned with how well we play “small ball”.
There are several reasons for this, but the one I want to address here is that it is directly connected to our ability as a Christian generation to effectively reach, disciple and “do church” with young adults.
“Small ball” refers to the style of baseball that relies on base hits, stolen bases, sacrifice bunts, and working the count–instead of swinging for the fences on every pitch. It’s slower, less flashy, more gritty, it requires patience, and delayed gratification–but it works. It scores runs. It wins games. It wins championships.
I want to point out a few observations that I have noticed in ministering and building relationships with young adults that can help us understand and have long term success in the area of young adult ministry:
1) Young adults both inside and outside the church are highly friendship oriented–so much so that for most young adults friends play an even more important and influential role in their lives than family or pastors.
2) Young adults want to be led, but they don’t want to be told what to do. They want to know the truth but don’t want someone to else to be their source of understanding that truth. They want to discover and develop their relationship with God in small, loosely structured peer groups.
3) Young Adults are notoriously spontaneous, they have bible studies at Huddle House at 2 in the morning. They break out in a prayer meeting after worship practice on a Thursday afternoon, but they blend in and disappear on Sunday morning or don’t even show up to service.
The role of the pastor that wants to successfully reach young adults must expand beyond simply preaching and teaching; to intentionally, but not too obviously, creating Jesus centered, social situations, where discovering the Scripture happens in small groups.
This highly friendship oriented, highly spontaneous, seemingly disorganized feel, makes for a style of ministry that scares many pastors to death. It feels ambiguous, fuzzy, uncommitted, unstructured, and worst of all, un-measurable.
It’s not the long ball. It’s small ball.
It’s messy, but it wins.