What are we selling Young Adults?



Nov 8


Suzie Botross


Imagine putting up an advertisement seeking house sitters for your mansion and offering access to your 5 bedrooms, entertainment area, your indoor and outdoor pool, tennis court and your flashy cars sitting pretty in the garage. You get inundated with applications. You choose one couple that sound reliable, responsible and worthy recipients. You inform them that they have been selected as the successful applicants. You hand them the keys and they squeal with excitement. They move in. They soak up all your benefits.

A month later they start to receive invoices for your home loan repayments, for your car fleets and for pool and tennis court hire. They freak and email you informing you that your bills have accidently arrived with their names on them. You proceed to explain that you completely overlooked explaining the fine print and that those invoices are all legit and are expected to be paid by them. They forfeit and walk away. 

Essentially they were Whilst sold a misleading proposition. 

Who is at fault here? The home owners or the house sitters?

Could our message be unbiblical?

As young adult leaders and pastors we too can be guilty of selling half the truth and highlighting the benefits of life for Jesus without drawing any attention to the fine print. In our desperate desire to see young adults cross over the line for Jesus, we can get so caught up in wanting them to just say “YES” to Christianity that we either overlook the fine print or decide to break the truth and details later.  Our motivation is admirable but our execution is misleading and lacks truth. As pastors for over 20 years, we know the desire to see people come to Jesus all too well. We have been there. We know what it feels like to fear that if we pitch the whole truth about dying to self and all that intense stuff, we might lose the sale. And let’s face it: in pastor world, there’s often an unspoken pressure that growth in numbers is directly correlated with an anointing, and we all want to feel and look anointed. Unless we die to this, we are in trouble and so are those young adults following us. Regardless on why we do what we do, selling the Jesus-life in this way is not necessarily an intentional omission, but it is unbiblical. 

Have you ever considered that our desperate desire to see decisions for Jesus can be the oxymoron that leads young adults to walk away from church? This happens when they discover that what they signed up for is way more than they bargained for or when it dawns on them that given that they have now secured their eternity, they may as well revert back to living like they used to. If the bench mark is that low, hey, what are we expecting?

It’s crazy really because this type of desperate “sell” almost suggests that we don’t believe Jesus had the right approach when he said it as it is. He made no mistake about inviting people to a life of death to self. I mean, how much more obvious could He have been: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” Matthew 14:24. In case you missed it, that is not an attractive marketing campaign! 

Let’s stick to the Jesus method. It worked then and it still works today. 

Is our message driving young adults out of the church?

So here’s a confronting question:

Could the message we are preaching be one of the reasons why young adults are walking away from the church, in some instances, never to return? 

We sell conversion without explaining the cost. We sell the message of Jesus as though it only requires a simple decision in exchange for a stack of perks, and we forget to explain the need to die to self, live out our Jesus DNA and multiply disciplers. 

We try and candy coat our message so that we can get people across the line. We present the ‘gospel’ in such a way as to maximise uptake and reach our unspoken sales targets, ignoring the fact that retention rates are what matter most. We minister and preach and lead as though conversion is the punch line, omitting the part about transformation. We get nervous that explaining the cost will result in a lower conversion rates, so we leave that bit out. 

Funnily enough, even the sales world understands this dynamic. In many sales driven workplaces where employees have sales targets to meet, companies allow for what’s called ‘claw-backs’ before paying staff bonuses. Claw backs are essentially the number of customers that revert on their contract or return their purchased product/s. The claw-back approach factors in the fact that consumers will change their mind if what they have signed up for is not what they expected. 

We can’t keep selling house sitting gigs in mansions in the hope that the successful applicants will fall in love with it so much so that they will happily absorb the costs that come with it. It doesn’t work that way.

Are we telling our young adults the full truth?

We can’t keep commercialising Jesus’s “die to self” message because we will continue to produce part time Christians who have no idea what they signed up. The stats are warning us that plugging a quick win call to repentance is not resulting in sanctified lives. 

Let’s not dilute our message. We must invite our young adults to a life that dies to self, walks in their new creation and lives out their Jesus like potential as a disciple and a discipler. We cannot keep calling people to accept a vending machine God who will give them what they desire and throw in a ticket to heaven for good will. 

Young adults are leaving the church.

Earlier I mentioned that Australian statistics are telling us that young adults are leaving the church. We urge you not to turn a blind eye to this even if this is not your prevailing reality in your local church context. It’s happening around you. In the 2021 Australian census, the demographic of young adults marked the steepest decline in Christianity. In just 5 years (2016-2021), young adults who identified as Christians decreased by 18%, particularly amongst those aged 25-34 years. This is not a threat. This is the perfect opportunity for us to rise up and tap into how we can reverse these stats. 

A free e-book for you

Recently, our co-founder Peter Botross published an e-book outlining how we can reverse these stats for generations to come. Here’s an excerpt from Peter’s book:

“Our message is often framed as a divine transaction without equal emphasis on transformation. This transactional Christianity is considered a spiritual bargain that guarantees forgiveness and a ticket to heaven.

Young adults imagine that their faith is confirmed by a once-in-a-lifetime decision to ‘receive Jesus’, in which they trade their sins for His forgiveness and their profession of faith for a judicial declaration of being right with God (i.e., justification). They repent of past sins with no intention of dying to their self- centred ways, desires and pursuits. Like a cosmic vending machine, young adults seek a God who makes their life better ‘while making few if any demands on [them] in terms of identity, lifestyle, and purpose’. Willard dubbed this approach as creating “vampire Christians”  who, through the blood of Jesus, seek eternal bliss without earthly transformation. However, a message promoting only the grace that changes our eternities without transforming our natures leads to worldliness rather than Christlike maturity. Vague guidance is offered for ‘converts’ to read their Bibles, regularly attend church, support the church’s ministries, tell others about Jesus and stay out of trouble.

Who wouldn’t ‘pray the prayer’ when it legitimises their pursuit of happiness and selfishness in the name of Christ? Seriously.

Now, I place myself squarely alongside pastors who preached this transactional message with integrity. I have preached this ‘gospel’ message for years and years, using all the tricks of the trade to emotionally move my audience to promptly decide to receive Jesus (whatever that meant for them). I didn’t offer a hamper of goodies, but I sold a what’s-in-it-for-me Christianity. I sincerely did it for Jesus … well, I mostly did it for Jesus. I’m embarrassed to admit, but it felt like every hand that raised in response to my salvation message validated my gift and existence! I, too, was bent on raising hands in the assumption that first-time decisions would naturally translate into full-time disciples. As you’ve probably guessed, it rarely worked.” Peter Botross

An amazing opportunity to reverse the stats for any young adult pastor or leader

If you want to know more about this and other factors relating to why young adults are leaving the church and what you can do to make the future different, download a copy of our latest ebook: Reversing the Stats. This could very well be a game changer for your ministry and for our country. 


Suzie Botross