Young adults at Holland Road Baptist Church
Young adults connect with the Hove church for a variety of reasons
Holland Road Baptist Church in Hove has a large number of 18-30 year olds in its congregation with around 60-70 gathering regularly as part of the wider church. This comprises a mixture of students, young adults, and young families.
There are several reasons why they have connected, notes associate minister Tim Vellacott, who is nevertheless keen to stress that the church doesn’t claim to have “all the answers”.
“There are some things we do well and lots of areas we’d like to improve. Brighton & Hove is a young city and it also has a large student population – in fact there are several churches here which have many more young adults than we do and we need to learn from them. But we asked our young adults about why they have connected with us, and several themes emerged.”
One is the importance of being part of an intergenerational church family. The young adults said that they loved the richness of experience of being with other generations. There is a focus on intergenerational relationships at Holland Road and one of its key values is growing as an extended family. One example of this is seen in the worship band, which has grandparents serving alongside teenagers, while away from Sunday the congregation gathers in groups of smaller “communities”, which often see students and young adults sharing life with families and older generations.
“The gospel at its best is something that brings diverse people together,” says Tim. “We have babies being born, and people in their 90s, and everyone in between. There is a genuine valuing of the older generation, while the older generations want the younger ones to succeed and grow, which they see as vitally important, and are a great source of encouragement.”
“So our communities are really important. Some are more mixed than others, but as a church we really value extended family and want to grow in it.”
Another common theme is that the young adults have found a place to belong and serve. The church aims to intentionally give young adults opportunities to serve and lead, with one obvious example being its Encounter service on a Sunday evening, “a night of worship and seeking God that is led by teens, students, 20s and those seeking to develop their gifts to serve the church.”
“We want to enable people to find and use their gifts, and that’s actually true of every age,” says Tim. “But certainly the young adults have told us they have found a place to belong to and serve. Encounter is a great example of that principle - young people with the opportunities to lead and teach and serve in all kinds of ways and this is true across the whole of church life.”
A third key reason is the church’s emphasis on biblical teaching alongside a willingness to explore and wrestle with contemporary issues.
Tim says: “We take scripture really seriously. We tend to teach systematically through books of the bible whilst making sure we engage with and explore the issues of the day. We don’t avoid the controversial subjects that people are wrestling with and want to help people see how the gospel of Jesus brings hope and life into those. We have been more recently helped by the writings of Tim Keller and Tom Wright in learning how to preach into our culture.”
“We are very gospel-focused, and we’ve been told by the young adults they appreciate that and that sadly this is increasingly rare.”
Other aspects at Holland Road include taking discipleship seriously, and significant engagement in social action “in a very Jesus-focused way.”
“As I say, we don’t claim to have all the answers and there are lots of things we would like to be doing better – but this is our experience,” says Tim.
Image | Young adults at Holland Road Baptist Church on a recent weekend away | Holland Road Baptist Church