As hundreds flowed into the Worship Center at Green Acres Baptist Church for Wednesday night service, a smaller crowd of about 80 gathered in the chapel - preparing to kick off the evening with prayer, coffee and acoustic guitar.
Jeans, T-shirts and smiles are customary among the crowd of predominantly 20- and 30-year-olds. The hour-long service features a break to mingle, and attendees are encouraged to stand up and sing along to Christian songs.
Toward the end of the service, Green Acres Baptist Church Pastor David Dykes often dropped in to field questions from audience members.
No questions seem to be off limits, and Dykes meets inquiries with a mix of scripture and personal experience.
“I think it’s a great way to get us back to our roots in the middle of the week,” said Emily Adams, 29, a member of the church who attends the midweek service. “(The service) is more relaxed, but you still get God’s word, which is really important.”
Jeremy Jones, the church’s minister to young adults, said the service provides adults a chance to have their questions answered and religious needs met with people in similar life stages.
“Green Acres is a large place, and you can come on Sunday and never get plugged in,” Jones said. “A small service like this on a Wednesday night is a great way to get plugged in, connected and to feel like you belong.”
Green Acres is now one of several East Texas churches that offer services or classes specifically designed to meet the spiritual needs of people in their 20s and 30s.
At Grace Community Church’s University Boulevard campus, the effort to meet the specific needs of young adults began around 2013, after a demographic survey revealed that about 60 percent of the people who attended the church on Sunday mornings were post-high school age, under 30 and single.
Danny Lamonte, the church’s campus development pastor, said it took about 10 months of brainstorming and prayer to come up with ideas to reach even more young people. The end result was YoPros, a multi-dimensional ministry that includes a Tuesday night service at the church’s Old Jacksonville Highway campus.
The service features fellowship, songs and a message - where specific books of the Bible are discussed - delivered by either Lamonte or a visiting minister. Attendees also are encouraged to spend time with one another.
David Buckley, pastor of education at Colonial Hills Baptist Church, said there are spiritual advantages that can occur when people who are in the same parts of their lives are able to discuss and receive advice about their Christian journeys.
Colonial Hills recently started a Sunday school class, called the Romans 8:1ers, where young adults, as well as others who would like to attend, can come, pray and listen to a deeper explanation of the previous week’s sermon.
“It allows people to address the needs in their immediate lives,” he said. “Sometimes it’s nice to know someone else is asking the same questions as (you’re) asking.”
Jones said that while there are some negative stereotypes that exist about young adults in regard to their enthusiasm about going to church, he has found that younger members often long for spiritual lives, but often just need encouragement.
“I think the biggest myth out there is that they don’t want a relationship with the other generation,” he said. “They want to be mentored and discipled and they want someone to take them under their wing.”
Lamonte added that next generation of Christians are also very passionate about helping others and that they are very capable of doing great works for Christ.
“You can just Google millennial generation and there is so much negative about them,” Lamonte said. “For us, we just see opportunity. We see passion. We see that they are unbelievably cause oriented."
IF YOU GO:
Green Acres Baptist Church
1607 Troup Highway
Midweek offered 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the Chapel
Colonial Hills Baptist Church
7330 S. Broadway
Sunday school class for young adults offered Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.
Grace Community Church
3215 Old Jacksonville Highway
7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Old Jacksonville Highway campus