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Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church Hardcover – September 20, 2016
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"Parents, families, and churches often struggle with how to get and keep children and young people interested and invested in Christian faith and church life, especially as culture and technology change at an increasingly faster pace. Growing Young provides practical answer to this question based on serious empirical research. I know of no book quite like it and recommend it highly."
"Through a series of surveys and studies, the authors discovered many positives about how churches function as well as areas where churches can improve outreach programs to appeal to teens, college-age students, and young professionals. Readers will appreciate that each chapter includes accounts of churches successfully executing [the book's] suggestions. In addition to explaining how to make these changes happen, the authors provide a summary of highlights at the end of each chapter along with strategic questions to help the reader's church "grow younger." "
"At various points throughout the development of this book, I was afforded the privilege of engaging both the project and the researchers. I can attest to the careful attention and rigorous research that the team brought to this topic. During a time period in our American church narrative when it is imperative that more attention be paid to how best to reach young people, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin have developed an important and significant resource. My strongest recommendation for those committed to reaching the next generation of believers is to purchase, read, engage, and apply this book."
"Every decade or so a book comes along that reminds us why children's, youth, and young adult ministry really matters. Growing Young goes far beyond the average book. It not only champions the best practices of growing churches everywhere, it also digs deep into the core issues that are crucial for making a forever impact in the heart and soul of young people. This book is a must-read for any leader or team who is investing in the future faith of the next generation."
"What's irresistible about Growing Young is that it's not primarily about age--it's about hope. Through story after compelling story, the authors demonstrate how prioritizing the young is a church-changing strategy, not a youth ministry-changing strategy, and how pursuing Jesus by 'growing young' fundamentally changes the ways congregations interact with their communities and their leaders, as well as with youth and adults. With refreshing candor, this book blows the sanctuary doors open thanks to its insistence on following Christ in a way that prioritizes listening, empathy, and care for all young people and families, not just the Christian ones. If you're looking for a book on youth ministry--keep looking. This book is for the church. At last."
From the Inside Flap
Unleashing the passion of young people in your church is possible!
Churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage. Based on groundbreaking research with over 250 of the nation's leading congregations, Growing Young provides a strategy any church can use to involve and retain teenagers and young adults. It profiles innovative churches that are engaging 15- to 29-year-olds and as a result are growing--spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and numerically. Packed with both research and practical ideas, Growing Young shows pastors and ministry leaders how to position their churches to engage younger generations in a way that breathes vitality, life, and energy into the whole church.
Jake Mulder is the director of strategic initiatives at the Fuller Youth Institute and is pursuing a PhD at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has worked in a variety of ministry and professional roles, including as a youth pastor in the Reformed Church of America, ministry director with Youth for Christ, and missionary with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Europe and Asia.
Brad Griffin is director of the Fuller Youth Institute. A speaker, blogger, and youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of several Sticky Faith resources as well as Can I Ask That? 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. He speaks nationally at churches, leadership training events, and youth ministry conferences.
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The design is essentially a description of a highly select sample with no comparison group, because they collected information only on successful churches and not unsuccessful churches. Although this does yield a list of common characteristics, there is no basis to assert that these characteristics have anything to do with the success of the churches in working with youth.
To illustrate why the design cannot answer the research question, consider the hypothetical example of identifying common characteristics of winning race horses. Imagine that a sample of recent winners produces these top three characteristics of winning race horses: they’re brown, they’re expensive, and they have big heavy hearts. The first common characteristic (brown) is merely incidental and likely because a lot of horses are brown. There’s no attempt to determine whether winning race horses are more likely to be brown than losing race horses, and there’s nothing about the color of a horse that would suggest that it is in any way responsible for helping the horse win. So “take Jesus’ message seriously” is probably a goal of all evangelical churches, whether or not they are successful with youth. With respect to being expensive, this is an instance of reverse-causality—they’re expensive because they win, and so for example if successful churches are empathizing with young people (another one of the core commitments they identify), this could be due to the large proportion of youth in these churches (e.g., increased opportunity for interaction) and not the other way around. The last characteristic—large heavy hearts—probably plays a causal role in race horses running faster, but “large” implies a comparison group as in “larger than the hearts of the losing race horses.” The CYEP project had no such comparison group, so for example “take Jesus’ message seriously” might be equally present (or even more present) in unsuccessful churches.
So the absence of a comparison group is a serious threat to the conclusions the authors draw because the design can’t answer the research question. We just don’t know if the core convictions they identify actually differentiate between success and failure—as they may be equally present in churches that aren’t doing well with youth. If we don't know that the characteristics identified predict success, then we also don't know if doing these things will lead to success.
Furthermore, correlation does not imply causation—which they acknowledge. In fact, they don’t appear to present any correlations in the book (e.g., “churches with more college students had more service opportunities”). They then deny and ignore this caveat: “However, we’re confident that the CEYP Project has identified six core commitments demonstrably present.” That is just as irresponsible as asserting that although the fact that winning race horses are brown and expensive may not contribute to their success, buyers should look for expensive brown horses if they want to win. I wish they would have included some correlational results. For example, before they started they hypothesized that 8 characteristics would be present, but they never report on whether or not these 8 characteristics were, in fact, present in successful churches.
In my opinion, there was also a specification problem. That is, the research and book leaves out many variables that are probably important. They made little reference to the fact that youth are often in high school or college, which would appear to have implications for the study (e.g., are these churches close to universities? Do these churches have a lot of families with high school students?). There was no talk of attracting Christians (e.g., transfer growth) vs. winning previously unchurched and unbelieving youth (e.g., conversion growth). It would make a big difference to me to learn about churches that reach youth as opposed to being the church where Christians from local universities attend or retaining the children of the church’s parents in their congregations. Given the design of the study, the book could have been strengthened with more theology for the points the authors were trying to make. Unfortunately this was also lacking because the book is based on research, so the authors didn’t spend a lot of time on theology.
So if you want to know what congregational practices lead to effective engagement of young people, the answers provided by this book should be taken with a grain of salt until they are verified with some theology, reasoned argument, or additional research findings.
It’s not common, and I REALLY like it.
What the actual research shows is actually quite different from many of the conclusions myself and others have reached about millennials and what they are looking for spiritually. I don’t think I realized how many preconceived notions I had about millennials (despite the fact that I am one of them)… and most of those notions were discouraging at best. The findings presented in Growing Young are exciting! They are completely in-line with scripture! They give me hope! They are going to change my approach to ministry in many ways!
Despite being based on research, the book presents the findings in a very readable and relatable way. They also do a great job of providing you with tangible ways to make the leap from simply becoming educated on the issues to doing something about them. I don’t care what place you might hold in your church, from upper level leadership to low-person on the totem pole… you CAN have an impact in helping your church ‘grow young’ and in the process become a healthier, better functioning, God-pleasing body of believers. The time and money you spend on this resource will most definitely pay out dividends! In fact, I suspect after reading it you’ll buy another copy to share. I did.
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I wonder how much the researchers are listening to college educated anglos growing...Read more