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Young Adults and the Church Today

Ron DeVries (left), Dave Scholman (center), and Elly Sarkany (right) organized an event in Classis Niagara focused on listening to young adults in the church.
Ron deVries, Youth and Emerging Adult Consultant, CRCNA
“Ministry with emerging adults is not easy. So many life transitions have moved what many churches have assumed as a linear faith-formation trajectory to one that has various entry points and shifts. For many of our young adults, navigating these transitions can feel overwhelming. The church needs to be aware of these moments and find ways to walk in faith with our covenant children in their lives.”

Pastors, lay leaders, denominational staff, and young adults came together May 6 at Mountainview Christian Reformed Church in Grimsby, Ont., to discuss young adults and the church today. The idea for this event came out of an email from pastors Elly Sarkany and Dave Scholman of Covenant CRC (St. Catharines, Ont.). They wanted to learn how their church could better engage and support young adults in their community. As Sarkany, the church’s worship pastor, explained: 

We’ve been experimenting with different approaches to young adult ministry programming at Covenant and feeling like we aren’t getting much traction, so we thought a conversation was in order to really hear from the young adults themselves (about) what is important to them in being part of a faith community. We sought help from…our regional catalyzer from the CRCNA to see what resources were already available to us from the denomination, and that developed into the conversation we hosted with Classis Niagara. We didn’t want it to be a top-down learning opportunity, but rather a session of listening to each other and asking the difficult questions, because none of us has all the answers. 

Ron deVries, youth and emerging adult consultant for Thrive, a ministry of the CRCNA, joined the conversation, and out of this one email inquiry came an event where young adults were called in as the experts to share about their lives and their hopes for a reciprocal relationship with the church. The event focused on being in a space of listening to better support our young adult community. 

Elana Smit (Mountainview CRC) was one of the panelists. “I found university to be a unique stage, which I wasn’t really prepared for or expecting,” she said. “I think that having conversations about it and bringing concerns forward is important to best support members of the congregation, including young adults. And this was just a way to get involved in that conversation!”

Sarkany said the gathering was “a nicely mixed group of attendees from all age groups and church leadership roles,” and she praised the panelists for addressing “a broad spectrum of the varying life stages and experiences of emerging adults.”

“One thing that became clear to me through all of this,” she said, “is that we need to stop simply asking young people to fill prescribed roles in the church and instead start giving agency to them to determine not just where, but how they would like to use their gifts to serve. It’s a culture change for a lot of our established churches, but it's necessary.”

Churches or classes interested in having this type of discussion can reach out to Thrive staff members Ron deVries ( or Becky Jones ( Churches who would like to talk about young adult ministry can email Dave Scholman Covenant CRC (

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