Pastor Rick Dunn leads Fellowship Evangelical Free Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Of the church of 5,000, 65 percent of adults are under the age of 35. Though fresh in style, the church doesn't embody the uber-trendy vibe many think you need to attract the younger set. Rather, it's Dunn's commitment to empowering and discipling emerging adults that has made them such a vital part of the congregation. He understands the longings of young people, and the specific spiritual challenges (and assets) of emerging adults.
Dunn co-wrote Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults (IVP, 2012) with professor and church leader Jana Sundene. It's filled with practical strategies for empowering Millennials to use their gifts, addressing their skittishness and cynicism, and communicating a vision for their discipleship to older believers. Leadership Journal's Paul Pastor sat down with Dunn to discuss his approach to discipling the younger generation.
Millennials have been skewered in the media. Why are you excited about working with them?
"With" is the important word here. To be effective with emerging adults, pastors need to think of ministry as work with, not work at or work for. This generation is deeply drawn to places of passion and authenticity. They want to be part of something that's meaningful, that is more than what they experience in other places.
They have tremendous energy and vision to ask hard questions and move the church forward. I don't think we've seen the 21st-century church yet, because we haven't let the emerging generation really come into its own.
I have a friend who left a very prominent position to work at a non-profit. He's almost 50 and the CEO of the nonprofit ...