Category Archives: Growing Young

“Empathizing with Young People” by Doug Reedy

noun: empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

During the early stages of the Growing Young process, the most surprising disconnect from the early feedback we have received has been on the subject of empathy. From the results of a quick Wednesday night survey by David of mostly senior adults, an equally informal and unscientific survey by me of our high school juniors and seniors, and our official small team feedback from the folks who attended in the seminar, empathy results have varied the most.

The empathy our church feels for young people was rated fairly high by one group, but dead last (of the six characteristics of a healthy, attractional church) by the other two. This was absolutely fascinating to me. Sure, our perceptions of empathy vary naturally with age. We joke about overly dramatic teenagers lamenting that “no one understands me!” as they slam their bedroom door, or grandparents who complain that kids today don’t know what it was like to walk seven miles to school and back (uphill both ways) every day, usually in the snow. While there is some truth to these stereotypes, the differences between now and then are almost always exaggerated.

I have heard some ludicrous statements over the years. Some highlights include “young people in this town didn’t drink alcohol before so-and-so came along” (a parent complaining about a former youth leader), “there simply weren’t drugs around when we were teenagers” (a parent who was a teen in the 1980s), and “we didn’t have the temptation of sex that these kids have to face” (from an era of more free time and less supervision). Really?! Either time clouds our memories or we prefer nostalgia over reality.

Yes, social media is a big deal. Yes, they have more homework and less free time now. Yes, technology has made growing up easier in some ways, more complicated in others. Let’s not blow these differences out of proportion to the point of pretending it is impossible to empathize.

What matters to young people? Relationships. Complicated relationships with family members. Changing landscapes and allegiances with their friends. Complex relationships with God. Falling in love. Being accepted and rejected. Trying to fit in and avoiding loneliness. Trying to be good for all the right or wrong reasons. Anger, jealously, and pride leading to setbacks. Achieving goals through hard work. In other words, what matters to them are the exact same things that matter to you!

On Sunday nights, in order to illustrate certain universal truths and to spark discussion of realistic teenage situations, we are using a television show produced in the 90s set in 1980. Why does that work? It works because the show focuses on relationships. It focuses on boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and friendship. It does so in a realistic way that makes us laugh at ourselves. Time is just a setting. The things that mattered when you were a teenager matter just as much today. Empathizing with young (or old) people is easy. They want love, acceptance, and a sense of purpose. Just like you.

“Growing Young…We Need Your Perspective!” by Doug Reedy

By now, you have heard something about the book Growing Young or our involvement with Fuller Youth Institute in helping us become a stronger, more attractive, and healthier church for all age groups. David has shared with you some about the six primary characteristics of healthy churches that attract young adults and about the conference we attended. You likely know the church is putting a team together as well.

You know we do some things well and need to improve in some areas. We aren’t planning on tweaking a few things or adding a few events; we are needing to make some cultural changes. This takes time and hard work. There are no easy fixes.

The first step is listening. Ascertaining where we are and what steps we need to make cannot be done without listening. We need to listen to the whole congregation. We need to listen to perceptions and realities. The only way we can do that is through hearing from everyone possible!

With that said, please give us the feedback we need by using the link below to take the Fuller survey. It is confidential and takes only 5-10 minutes. Our congregational coach will use it to help us determine the path ahead. Thank you for helping shape our future:

“Reflections after the Growing Young Conference” by Doug Reedy

Before we departed for the Growing Young conference last week, I shared my guarded optimism.  Will we, as a whole congregation, rise to the occasion?  Will we do what it will take to make positive changes in our church culture?  Will we build on our many positives while working hard on our negatives?

The short answer is I really do believe we will.  There is a positive energy around us.  Giving is up.  Small changes are already in place.  We are beginning to involve more people in leadership.  We will still need more people to step up, but it is quite clear that more people are truly “in” than there have been in quite some time.

If we wish to attract young adults, and therefore attract more people in general, please understand there is no magic bullet.  There is nothing that will get us to where we wish to be overnight.  No flashy one day event we choose to have will result in any lasting impact.

Becoming a warmer environment for both visitors and regular attendees, involving more young people in leadership, being empathetic, prioritizing young adults, continuing to be missional, and putting Jesus’ message front and center will.  This isn’t just common sense anymore.  Research backs it up.

In business, church life, or college football, gimmicks do not bring long term success.  Hard work and patience pay off.  This church has risen to the occasion many times before.  If we pray, volunteer, listen, and give as we are capable of, we will again!


“Reflections before the Growing Young Conference” by Doug Reedy

On the eve of embarking on the Growing Young conference, I must admit being torn between optimism and skepticism.  In times like these my tendency is toward optimism as long as it is backed by prayer.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share my hopes and concerns with you.

I am optimistic that we will continue to have a vibrant, active youth group just as we have always had.  I worry about our ability to consistently appeal to young adults in their 20s.  That is of course why we are attending the Growing Young seminar.  The pool of educated young professionals in Lumberton is quite shallow to begin with.  Unless the economy improves, many former FBC youth will continue to find jobs elsewhere in the country, but some do return out of a love for their hometown.

Our current youth group shows more interest in our worship services (at least the early service), but it is hard to grow past a certain point with young people when they are asked to give up the one day they would have to take a sabbath.  Still, they are more willing to pray and read scripture in services than they ever have been, and we are more likely to call upon them now than in the past.  Our current college students seem open to participating when home, but only with your encouragement.

At this seminar, I am sure we will learn some practical steps toward becoming a church that is attractive to young adults.  My worry is in the execution.  We already have difficulty finding prayer partners for our college students for example, and this is a drop in the bucket of what we will need to do as a congregation to be successful.  We also need young people in serious leadership roles, and they need older mentors beyond paid staff and youth volunteers.  That takes willingness and effort from all.

As I shared with many of you in my last sermon, I am encouraged by the overwhelming positive impression our youth and former youth have of FBC.  Although there were complaints about the amount of bickering or lack of warmth, all of our youth and former youth spoke glowingly when asked about the opportunities we have provided them to serve others.  Serving others is what we are known for, and that is not only a great building block, it is a wonderful reason for optimism about our future!