If you’re like me, you’ve read a lot about generational differences in participation in religious communities. These differences mean that congregations are having to find creative and diverse ways of engaging younger generations in ministry and service.

In this edition of the Weekly, we look at three ministries that are reaching young people around the United States. Beginning outside Chicago, Illinois, we learn how Iskali is helping young adults deepen faith while building community. Then, we look to Montana and the work of Serious JuJu, a skateboarding and worshipping community. The third ministry we profile is one we’ve visited before — Mowtown Teen Lawn Care in Vancouver, Washington — that combines social enterprise with youth ministry.  

These aren’t the kinds of youth group ministries that I grew up with, but they are engaging young people in fascinating ways!

Welcome to the Weekly!

A nonprofit helps Latino Catholic young adults grow in faith and build community

A nonprofit helps Latino Catholic young adults grow in faith and build community

Iskali was created by a 19-year-old to support other young adults in the church. More than a decade later, it offers faith formation, mentorship, scholarships and other opportunities for a new generation to grow in Christ.

Resources for leaders during the pandemic

Eat. Pray. Skate.

Eat. Pray. Skate. A skateboarding ministry offers unconditional love to teens

Serious JuJu is a ministry that meets young people where they are — in a skate park in Kalispell, Montana. Before the pandemic, 400 teenagers a week would come to their Friday night gatherings; even now, 75 are engaged weekly.

Mowtown Teen Lawn Care is a social enterprise offering a new model for youth ministry

Mowtown Teen Lawn Care is a social enterprise offering a new model for youth ministry

Jobs, skills and mentoring are just some of the benefits of this lawn care business, operated under the auspices of a Presbyterian church in Vancouver, Washington.

From the Alban Library

Facing Decline, Finding Hope: New Possibilities for Faithful Churches

by Jeffrey D. Jones

Facing Decline, Finding Hope: New Possibilities for Faithful Churches

Church today isn’t the same as it was 50 years ago — or even 10 years ago. In spite of the powerful stories of turn-around churches with skyrocketing memberships, the difficult reality is that most congregations are getting smaller. Jeffrey D. Jones asks brave questions for congregations facing this reality — what if membership growth isn’t the primary goal for a church? How can churches remain vital, even with declining attendance?

Facing Decline, Finding Hope is an essential resource to help congregations confront their shrinking size while looking toward the hopeful reality that God is calling them to greater faithfulness. The book draws on biblical and theological resources, as well as contemporary leadership studies, to help leaders — both clergy and laity — set aside a survival mentality and ask new questions to shape ministry more attuned to today’s world.

Facing Decline, Finding Hope is a powerful book for leaders who want to honestly assess the size of their church and plan for faithful, invigorating service regardless of whether membership numbers are up or down.

Before you go…

As I read through these stories of innovative youth ministries, I couldn’t help but think of the story that Victoria White told several weeks ago of her congregation’s decision to stop online youth Sunday School. When it appeared in the Weekly, we focused on White’s keen observation about the occasional strategic need to stop doing something, but today, I’m thinking about that story for what it might suggest about youth ministry. 

As congregational leaders, how are we evaluating our youth ministries? How are we adapting our inherited models for a new day with new needs? How are we listening to our youth and young adults — and those in our communities — to develop new opportunities or to stop doing things that are no longer working?

Hopefully these stories will inspire you as you seek to serve new generations.  

We’ll see you in your inbox next week, and in the meantime, peace to you! 

Nathan Kirkpatrick

Managing Director, Alban at Duke Divinity

More on this topic

From idea to reality

How will you execute your ideas?<...

Leaders need wisdom 

How can we cultivate gospel-center...