CHATTANOOGA — Reaching young adults of “post-modern 21st century America” requires thinking like a missionary, says Mike Glenn, senior pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood.
Glenn made his comments during a breakout session on “Reaching Young Adults” held Nov. 12 at the Chattanooga Convention Center during the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Glenn mainly spoke from his experience of leading Kairos, a gathering at the church every Tuesday evening which draws about 700 young adults but has drawn as many as 1,500.
Ministers and Christians must “think like missionaries” to reach young adults — learning their culture, hang-outs, movies they watch, and music they are hearing, he advised.
Kairos was started about 10 years ago at “the right moment,” which is what Kairos means in Greek, he explained. When developing it, Glenn thought he didn’t have time to lead it. He is so glad he did and still does, he said. “It is the most fun I have,” he added. Brentwood Baptist draws about 4,700 people to Sunday morning activities on two campuses.
Kairos was started as a worship service on Tuesday nights. The night was chosen because TV shows that night weren’t that good, Glenn explained. It grew by word of mouth, he added.
The church consulted experts when starting the ministry but were quickly surprised to learn all that the experts and church ministers didn’t know.
Kairos participants did not know much if anything about the Bible, said Glenn. For instance, when he was teaching about Joseph of the Old Testament, he was asked by a man when Joseph met Mary. On another occasion, a young lady told Glenn that she went to buy a Bible but didn’t buy one because she didn’t want to buy the wrong one.
He also learned from the young adults that many had issues with their parents sometimes because they basically didn’t have parents in their lives and other times because they had been mistreated by their parents.
“We found out that these kids are hurting like you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
In response, he led a series of messages entitled, “When Dads Disappear and Moms Let You Down.” As a part of that series, Glenn had Kairos participants with these problems write letters to their parents as a way to cope, he explained.
Having these experiences led him and church leaders to adjust church ministries to students, such as increasing Bible study and decreasing fun events, he said. They also adjusted church ministries to parents.
Glenn advised ministers to young adults to be themselves. Young adults have seen so much advertising, that when they perceive anything other than honesty they will just not come back, he said.
He also learned that adolescence now ends at a later age. The trend can be seen in the fact that his dad was a man at 14 and he was a man at 21. Now young adults are men at age 30, he reported.
Today young adults also are totally worldly in their viewpoints, said Glenn. They hang out in coed groups in which members don’t date that much but are sexually active with each other.
Today, youngsters are generally sexually active at age 12, reported Glenn. They are sexually confused. Also by the ages of 9-10 about 90 percent are viewing pornography.
In response, he preaches bluntly, he said. “We do not pull any punches.”
During messages he has pointed out to the young adult men who are living with girls to consider how they are labeling those girls. For instance, Glenn has asked them how their male friends view the girl.
Most church members think the world is mad with the church because it’s different, said Glenn. Instead the world is mad with the church “because the church is not different enough.”
His bluntness may have drawn the young adults, he speculated. “That may be counterintuitive, but they’ve never heard it,” he said. He called it “parenting from the pulpit.” His age has helped him do this, he added.
Glenn said he has enlisted senior adults to befriend Kairos participants because of their issues with their parents. It has worked out well, he added.
He also has learned that there is tons of difference between a worship leader and a musician. They use worship leaders at Kairos, he stated.
Of course, he and others try to involve Kairos participants in other Brentwood Baptist activities and encourage them to attend other churches. The church also develops events for them covering topics such as how to buy a Bible or how to dress for a job interview.
He recommended that church leaders first listen to young adults before they try to start a young adult ministry.
They should allow young adults to come to church however they want to come and stand in the back if they wish, he stated.
Leaders should be willing to develop relationships with them and be transparent, said Glenn. Be willing to meet them at Starbucks just to talk whenever they want to meet, he added.
If they bring their baby to church, offer to hold the baby and tell them about the nursery. Remember they don’t know churches, he observed.
Finally, Glenn advised those in attendance not to get “a box of Kairos and take it to your church.”
Instead they should realize that they are “uniquely gifted to be in the setting” where they are, Glenn added.