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4 Essential Keys to Working with Twentysomethings | From #Impact12 Speaker Nicole Unice

We’re getting ready for the 2012 Ideas to Impact Conference just a couple of months away, and so are speakers from all over the country! Here’s a guest blog post by Ideas to Impact speaker Nicole Unice, who serves in student and family ministry at Hope Church, the fastest growing church in Richmond, VA.
Nicole is also the author of She’s Got Issues (May 2012), a book on God’s work in women’s ordinary struggles. Nicole blogs at

The Care and Keeping of Twentysomethings
It can be daunting to open up your life and your ministry to the next generation. Just when you think you’ve figured out how to run a small group or women’s ministry or even your own meeting, this lively bunch shows up, with energy and enthusiasm, zany ideas and young skin. At times they seem like peers, other times they seem like preschoolers. Pundits say they are entitled and adolescent. Yet regardless of how you feel about the next generation, they are the church of tomorrow and they are the church of today. They are our next pastors, ministry leaders, elders, writers and communicators. Working with them is a biblical mandate, as we are called to commend the works of God to the next generation (Psalm 71:8).
So how does a leader of any age work with twentysomethings? What do they offer us, and what can we offer them? In my own practice of counseling and ministry, I’ve found there are four essentials to understanding the next generation. These essentials—understanding their development, their background, their culture and how they perceive us as older leaders–can’t be programmed or checked off a to-do list. The investment can come at a high cost, but the potential payout makes it worth it—the great blessing of serving a young leader at a critical intersection in their life.

Essential #1: Appearance Check.
We call twentysomethings “young adults,” but young people after college are hurled into the vast sea of “adulthood.” They often sense that they are supposed to be ready to be grown-up yet feel shockingly unprepared. This creates the temptation to hide their true selves and offer up a more “adult” version.  Most twentysomethings I know need permission to not have life figured out. They need to know that you, at thirty or forty or fifty, is not the same “you” as you were at twenty-three.
Essential #2: Background Check
It is easy to expect a twentysomething to immediately “adopt” your culture and processes in ministry. Instead of thinking of ourselves as learning from them, we often expect conformity with the way we are already doing it. But young people bring a whole host of “learned behaviors” into the ministry setting. It is our responsibility to help this new adult in the transition time: to understand how their own upbringing, their educational background, and their experiences in faith affect and shape they way they approach the future. This can be as easy as asking a new person in your ministry about their family, about their experience in college, about their church background. This information provides excellent context for understanding how you can best acculturate a young person into your team.
Essential #3: Culture Check
In a poor economy with less opportunities for job satisfaction, twentysomethings often seek purpose and fulfillment outside of their employment. The church is the perfect place for young people to use their education and skills in a meaningful way.

Essential #4: Honesty Check
My pastor has always said “more is caught than taught,” an essential worth living. Young people want honesty from you. They want to know that you don’t have it all figured out (and you certainly didn’t in your twenties!). They want to know that you can be wrong and that you know how to apologize for it. They need to know it’s OK to not have it all together.

The older leader has great opportunity to leverage new people into kingdom work. It requires grace and perseverance, but the leader who succeeds join the Psalmist in proclaiming God’s “power to this new generation, [his] mighty miracles to all who come after me” (Psalm 71:18).

Join us at the Ideas to Impact Conference in Atlanta to see Nicole speak in person – including a session on Leading the Next Generation. Get more information at

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