Finding Community as a Young Adult
Austin Phillips and a group of eight young men gather every Tuesday morning before starting their workday. Being recent university graduates in their young twenties, many in the group have struggled to really connect with a church in their community.
So on Tuesdays they gather together and read the Bible. They pray. They talk about the meaning of the passage and how it applies to daily life. They share their challenges, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and anything else.
“And then we go out,” said Phillips.
This group of young men is a microchurch. Microchurches are small communities of people “centered on a heart that beats for one thing,” said Phillips.
That “one thing” could be their career, an area of study, parenting, or something else. For Phillips and his microchurch, they’re a group of young men focusing on developing their relationships—with Christ, with one another, and with other people in their lives.
Phillips started the church as a new collaboration between Campus Ministry at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and Calvin Theological Seminary to equip young adults to lead small, missional faith communities. They received a Resonate Global Mission Innovation Experiment Grant that helped them launch the first cohort last fall.
“I think that sometimes with people in their early twenties, it’s hard to find a home church where they feel they really belong. I think a lot of time people graduate from college and feel a little lost because their community is gone,” said Phillips.
That’s one reason why this microchurch community is so valuable. While each member is part of a larger, established church as well, Phillips said, the microchurch provides close-knit relationships and opportunities for growth that can be difficult to find in a larger church.
“The ability for a small group to gather and ask intentional questions creates a sense of relational buy-in and relational growth and vulnerability that I think is harder with a large number of people. Everyone has a voice,” said Phillips.
For Phillips, he said the group has been “God-led and God-given.”
As part of forming this microchurch, Phillips is involved in a cohort of young adults led by Cody Zuiderveen, a campus minister at GVSU, and Cory Willson, a professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary.
“Austin and I have been doing discipleship together for a number of years now,” said Zuiderveen. “I asked him to join this cohort because he has always cared really well for his community, his friends—and not just as a friend but as one who wants to help them go deeply into the Word and into community together.”
Zuiderveen said he sees this cohort as a continuation of that discipleship with Phillips. And with Calvin Theological Seminary he’s been able to provide Phillips with resources that he wasn’t able to do in a one-on-one relationship.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been really grateful for from Calvin Theological Seminary and Cory Willson . . . being able to bring some of his expertise in things like context, and helping Austin understand the people around him more deeply,” said Zuiderveen.
“Some of the ways I’ve seen Austin grow is in clarity and how the gospel interacts with this group of guys,” he added.
The microchurch that Phillips has fostered meets not only for Bible study but also to spend time hanging out. Phillips said he often checks in one-on-one with group members throughout the week, and they’re all ready to pray for one another whenever asked.
“We’re really just pursuing Christ together and growing in our identity in Christ,” said Phillips. “And from that, say, on a Tuesday morning after Bible study, we go out into our workplace knowing who we are and how we can make an impact in God’s kingdom.”