what a college ministry explorer notices at a young adult ministers’ lunch

A monthly gathering for Young Adult Ministers has recently started up here in Dallas! And since I had helped with a little input on the front end, I had the chance to sit in with them last week.

To avoid any confusion right off the bat: While there are people who serve both college students and young adults (in some churches, at least), those groups are significantly different. I’ll likely blog more about that in the future, but I just didn’t want anybody to be confused by my contrasting of Young Adult Ministers and College Ministers here.

Last semester, I got to attend a Youth Specialties lunch and blogged about the interesting differences I noticed between Youth Pastors and us College Ministers. So I figured I would do the same for the Young Adult Ministers – not just as a thinking exercise, but to help us examine what we do a little more closely!

It’s churches. Unlike our field, which encompasses four distinct branches (campus-based, church-based, institutional, and collegiate churches), Young Adult Ministries are generally housed in churches… at least for now. The only common exception isn’t really an exception; the “citywide” worship service might draw young adults from across church lines, but even that is often run directly by a single church.

Young Adult Ministry’s “target” varies more widely than ours. In College Ministry, our lines aren’t perfectly clear – some people who aren’t attending classes are still quite “collegiate,” while some who are students will feel most at home in Young Adult or other Adult ministries.

But I think Young Adult Ministries have even much more varied definitions of their audiences. Even in that room of 15-20 Young Adult Ministers, the definition of “Young Adult” varied – in age and in marital status. As I’ve seen around the country, “Young Adult” can mean 18-25, 23-30, 20s and 30s, or similar combos. And it doesn’t always mean just singles. In fact, I think the trend (and it’s a trend that makes a lot of sense) is for churches’ Young Adult Ministries to reach “post-college, pre-family, married or single” – as one young adult minister put it the other day.

But in some sense, we can be thankful that the lines are (usually) a little clearer, and they don’t change much with generational shifts (like the average marriage age).

Clearly, college students are part of the equation. Of course, not all Young Adult Ministries have “post-college” as part of their definition. Many churches try to reach both collegians and young adults as part of an overall “Young Adults” or “Singles” ministry, with varied success. This is an important aspect to note, of course, because it affects all of us who reach college students – including college ministries that aren’t in churches.

As I’ve seen at an awful lot of churches around the U.S., it can be really hard to reach both groups simultaneously. While I certainly think one achievable College Student Plan for churches involves activity overlap between the two groups, it needs to be done strategically and with a recognition that collegians and young adults are simply different. Hopefully our field can help churches think through their plans, including helping them see that sometimes a cooperative approach with already-established collegiate ministries may make a lot of sense!

more observations to come! (Read the second post here.)


  1. Great post buddy. Thanks for being there. I’d love to get more of your insights on what you saw particularly in that group.

    For any of your readers who are Young Adult Pastors in Dallas and would like to join us, OR, they are outside of Dallas and want to start their own Network and want to hear how we did it, they can email me at PhilO@FellowshipDallas.org.

  2. Thanks, Phil! Yeah, we can definitely chat about what I noticed!

    And likewise, if I can help people think through how they do “roundtables,” especially among college ministers, let me know. As I’ve blogged before, I’ve seen a lot of those sorts of efforts go poorly, and some others be really effective. It’s all in how you do it! (And this one in Dallas seems to be starting off really well!)

  3. Pingback: more noticings from a young adult ministers lunch « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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