Compass 2017


Two and a half years ago we shifted our young adult ministry strategy to one more like church planting, a “church within a church.” After using a more “integrative approach” for 8 years, I realized that we just weren’t reaching our potential.


I did a little local research and found that there are over 5000 young adults ages 18-24 and another 2500 ages 25-30 (for a total of 7500 young adults) in our community. We were only reaching about 20-40 each week. That’s only .5% of all young adults in our area. Furthermore, only 300-400 young adults had any meaningful connection to any church or faith community of any sort. That’s only 4-5% of all young adults. That means 95-96% of all young adults are without a faith community and many don’t even know Jesus.

I knew we needed to do something different.


Our worship director and I decided to launch a worship service and church community called Compass. It’s held late Wednesday nights for young adults ages 18-30ish. It’s a church community that empowers young adults to navigate life together. Currently we have an active roll of about 100 young adults and an average attendance range of 50-80. Our short term goal is to figure out how to break an average attendance of 100. Our long term goal is to reach 500.


We discussed it at length with our Lead Pastor and other staff. He discussed it at length with our church’s leadership team and we all agreed that we had to do this for the sake of our young adults. So we began to build our team.

We were convinced that it had to be a legitimate church/worship service with modern and interactive worship, relevant preaching, the sacraments of communion and baptism, small groups, and a dessert social afterward.

Do When You’re Small What You Will When You’re Big
We wanted to take some of the DNA that defined us on Sundays and bring it to Wednesdays and we wanted to do at 50 what we will at 500. This would allow us to keep young adults with what we attract them with. It also allows us to really hone the experience and develop the community.

This includes a full worship band. We asked the Sunday team to be missionaries for a while until we can build a self-sustaining team. Some weren’t interested but most of them loved the idea. We still have some work to do but the majority of the band are now young adults. The worship is sometimes interactive with corporate scripture readings, responsive prayers, tactile experiences with candles, water, chalk markers and black boards, etc. and communion once a month.

This includes preaching. I’m the primary communicator and I try to develop preaching series that relate to their lives, provide practical insight to the Word of God, and helpful application to their everyday living. I now have a lay person who also preaches once each month to give me a break. Each week we provide statement sized (half sheet) message notes for them to study the scripture text, fill in the blanks, and take their own notes. We also provide free statement sized binders in which they can collect all their notes and handouts.

Late Night
Young adults kinda like being up late. Compass is held after all our other midweek programs so they get the building all to themselves. It begins at 8:00PM with Iced Coffee and all the sweet fixings during the spring and summer, and hot cocoa and cider during the late fall and winter. The worship service begins at 8:30PM. Small groups begin around 9:20/9:30PM and go for about 20 minutes.

Around 10:00PM we begin our dessert social. We have volunteer bakers from the church on a schedule to bring in desserts each week. Most people like to stay till at least 10:30PM. Some even stay till 11:00PM and sometimes 11:30PM.

Small Groups
Our philosophy is if you come to Compass, you’re in a small group. That philosophy translates to about 95% of our young adults being in small groups. A few have to begin work early in the morning and can’t stay that late. These small groups are led by young adults and they discuss the message with questions that I provide as a spring board to get things going.

About once each month, we have an activity of some sort. Sometimes they’re just fun activities like movie nights, game nights, pool parties, ice skating, etc. Other times they’re service oriented like going to a local nursing home, raking leaves, roadside clean up, Christmas caroling, etc.

Pretty much every aspect of Compass has young adult ownership. The welcomers are all young adults. The iced coffee station is setup and served by young adults. The service hosts (on stage) are young adults. The worship band is mostly young adults (led by a staff person). Most of the AVL team are young adults (led by a staff person). The communion is prepared and served by young adults. The ushers are young adults. Our small group leaders are young adults and they help determine the preaching topics (but mostly preached by a staff person) with some young adults sharing in the preaching or testimonies. Our activities are planned and led by a team of young adults. Our desserts team is coordinated by a young adult. The small groups all take turns with KP for kitchen cleanup after dessert each week.

There’s so much more to write about in each of these areas. So there’s lots to cover in future posts.

The next post, though, will provide 7 Essential Principles for Building a Young Adult Ministry.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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