Project Documents

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Jeffrey Potts

Second Advisor

Ronald Pickell

Third Advisor

Richard Sylvester

Abstract

Problem

Post-Christian young adults are generally not interested in Christianity and therefore are unlikely to attend church or hear preaching. Therefore, a preaching strategy must be developed and implemented to reach post-Christian young adults in their setting.

Method

The subjects of the study were 24 young adult males from the community who attended the weekly open-gym basketball outreach. They ranged in age from 16 to 34 and were of various races and some of mixed race. All were born and raised in the United States and spoke English. Of these subjects only two were from the church I pastor. One was the youth leader and the other a recently baptized former post-Christian who first started coming to church via the basketball outreach. There were four groups among the subjects: post-Christians, Christians, individualized Christians who practice their spirituality on a regular basis but only attend church occasionally or never, and non-practicing Christians who do not practice their spirituality on a regular basis, even if they attend church. A comparison group from my church was used for part of the study. The intervention began by being incarnational with the target group at the basketball outreach. I played basketball, socialized, and ministered to their needs. Then I invited participants to the project talks, which were based on felt needs, to further build relationships and trust. Next came follow-up talks to present Christ and spirituality. Three surveys and a focus group evaluated the effectiveness of my intervention, which consisted of 15 talks over almost five months: November 3, 2015 to March 22, 2016.

Results

There were six post-Christian young adults in the basketball group and all responded positively to my project talks, including the illustrations and storytelling, and all were interested in follow-up talks. They were also more favorable to all questions on the post-presentation survey than any young adult or adult from the comparison church group, except the post-Christian young adult church group, which was able to imagine the stories more. Also, all the young adults from the basketball group marked “strongly agree” on the post-presentation survey at a higher rate for all questions than all young adults or adults from the church group. In addition, 98% of the basketball group was interested in follow-up talks, but only 78% of church adults and 65% of church young adults were. The pre-presentation survey revealed that post-Christian young adults from the basketball group preferred face-to-face communication and opening up to an adult female slightly above an adult male, as well as someone not their parent/legal guardian. Also, the majority of participants from the basketball group, including post-Christians, reported watching TV/movies and using internet and a cell phone every day. Thus, participants were likely to be visual with shorter attention spans, comfortable with story as a teaching medium, and used to having things at their fingertips, including a vast amount of information. The focus group feedback from all participants in the basketball group, including post-Christians, was almost all positive, except for a few minor dislikes. After attending the follow-up talks, during which I presented Christ, all post-Christians from the basketball group made spiritual decisions, including one who did not attend any project talks and only one follow-up talk. However, the three post-Christians who made the most spiritual decisions attended the most. They also attended the most project talks. One of these participants attended the majority of the project talks, but only one follow-up talk and the review. Although he made many spiritual decisions, he did not accept Christ. In addition, after attending the follow-up talks and filling out the follow-up survey, even though all six expressed belief in God’s love and four believe in Jesus, that God will help them, and that God created them, only three confessed their sins and asked God for forgiveness and are involved in prayer and Bible study, and only two accepted Christ. These two who accepted Christ also attended the most follow-up talks. Of these two, one only attended two project talks and the other only three.

Conclusions

My talks were specifically geared for the post-Christian young adults in the basketball group. The results reveal that my project talks appealed to this group. This seems related to their being visual and comfortable with story as a teaching medium. The small group format, face-to-face communication, participant involvement in illustrations, and shorter talks seem to have helped reach them. Had I been an older female, they may have had a slightly easier time opening up. The results also reveal that my follow-up talks were effective in leading all post-Christian young adults from the basketball group to make spiritual decisions, even though Christian belief did not necessarily translate into Christian practice for some. In addition, the more they attended the project and follow-up talks, the more likely they were to make more spiritual decisions. Also, the more follow-up talks they came to, the more likely they were to accept Christ, even if they only came to two or three project talks. In fact, the two post-Christians who accepted Christ were ready for spiritual things with less project talks. Thus, although building up during the project talks was important before sharing Christ, ample time to hear about Christ during the follow-up talks was more important and an indicator of whether or not they would accept Christ. Therefore, it may be more productive in the future to begin with less project talks and then go into the follow-up talks and present Christ. This will also shorten the overall length of the series and may help more participants attend more follow-up talks, rather than just more project talks. Furthermore, I used teaching methods that connect with today’s post-Christian young adults. However, culture changes and in the future other teaching methods may be better suited.

Subject Area

Church work with young adults, Storytelling--Religious aspects, Witness bearing (Christianity)

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