Grace Fellowship Church of Princeton, Indiana, has embarked on a transformative journey to reimagine ministry with young adults in their community. Through their “YAS Connect” (Young Adults Connect), the church has successfully created a safe, inclusive space for young adults to build relationships, connect with community partners and experience the warmth of a church family. By partnering with local businesses and supporting a worthy cause, Grace Fellowship Church has modeled a collaborative approach to young adult ministry worthy of emulation in churches of any size.

This project was made possible by a grant from the Young Adult Innovation Hub from the Imaginarium at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. But the impressive ministry Grace Fellowship accomplished took only $1,000 in grant funds (a reminder that innovation can often be done without a huge budget or lots of production).

A few key “best practices” the Grace Fellowship young adult team has learned from their work to love God and neighbor through YAS Connect are:

Building a team 

Grace Fellowship’s ministry is rooted in listening; so, the first thing Reverend Amber Cook, Grace Fellowship pastor, did was enlist more listening leaders, who — with their connections, expertise and perspectives — could broaden their congregation’s approach to the young adults in their community. The resulting team, Grace Fellowship Young Adults, (GFYA) was comprised mostly of young adults, ensuring they would not just be doing ministry to young adults but by and for young adults.

Building a third space

As the team gathered, they identified a central problem plaguing their area: young adults had “first spaces” (their homes) and “second spaces” (their place of employment). But beyond those two key locations, young adults near Grace Fellowship often lacked “third spaces” (places to gather, develop relationships and talk). Recognizing the lack of gathering opportunity for young adults in their county, Grace Fellowship Church seized the chance to fill this void. The church leadership team, including four dedicated twentysomethings and support from six individuals in their 30s, quickly developed the concept of a disco-themed evening. This first event aimed to foster connections while providing free coffee, food and themed shirts to attendees.

Collaborating with Community Partners

As Rev. Cook listened to her team of young adults, she noticed that as much as they wanted to gather to experience community for themselves, their first priority was looking outside their congregation to serve others. Within 48 hours of receiving the $1,000 grant, Grace Fellowship Church reached out to Addiction Solutions, a local not-for-profit organization that focuses on men’s recovery houses and was in the process of opening a house for women, to see how they might together quietly serve their neighbors in the recovery community.

By partnering with Addiction Solutions, the church sought to raise awareness about addiction recovery among young adults while encouraging them to support this noble cause. Grace Fellowship raised a small amount of money, which was donated alongside items Addiction Solutions needed. This collaboration demonstrated the church’s commitment to engaging with pressing community issues.

Partnering with local business

Continuing the theme of helping their community thrive, GFYA reached out to Port Side Coffee Company, a beloved local business, about renting their space and services for the YAS Connect event. Port Side, run by young baristas and known for their morning beverage offerings, welcomed the invitation to extend their hours and host evening events. By using grant funds, Grace Fellowship Church rented the space and paid the baristas. The church’s investment also included buying coffee drinks for the first 30 young adults and providing additional resources to enhance the overall experience.

The YAS Connect event held at Port Side Coffee Company proved to be a resounding success. Attendees reveled in the vibrant atmosphere, enjoying the company of known and new friends. The evening was filled with laughter, shared meals and various engaging games. The absence of any overtly religious elements did not diminish the sense of love and connection experienced by the young adults. In fact, one attendee even remarked that the event made them long for a church family, affirming the impact of Grace Fellowship Church’s efforts.

“Port Side Coffee has received more business from young adults in the area as a result of the promotion of our events. It’s been such a win-win partnership!” reflected Rev. Cook.

Developing consistency

Encouraged by the positive response and growth potential, Grace Fellowship Church plans to make YAS Connect a regular ministry. The church envisions expanding promotion efforts to local colleges, creating a broader reach among young adults seeking meaningful connections. By continuously adapting and refining their approach, the church seeks to deepen their impact and serve as a welcoming space for young adults searching for a sense of belonging.

Grace Fellowship Church’s innovative approach to ministry with young adults demonstrates how congregations of every size can engage a generation that is increasingly suspicious of organized religious expression.

“Our small church has been encouraged that even WE can engage young adults. We also have been fascinated by the way young adults in the community are attracted to a church that would offer them something without any strings attached,” said Rev. Cook.

By creating a safe third space, partnering with local businesses, supporting a worthy cause, and fostering generous connections in the community and among young adults, the church has successfully cultivated an environment where love and connection flourish. As they continue to expand their ministry opportunities, Grace Fellowship Church is poised to make a lasting impact on the lives of young adults and empower them to find their place within a church family.

For more stories about how God is using every generation to transform lives, churches and communities with the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ, visit

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.