In October 2020, I first stepped inside a CrossFit gym. The welcome I received got me thinking about the welcome we give to young adults who are new in the church.

CrossFit is sold not just as a type of gym to go to, but a lifestyle change. It promotes a focus on constantly varied, functional movements at a high intensity. And after seeing a number of friends try it, I wanted on the hype train.

One of the things they kept talking about was the community. That’s no accident. CrossFit themselves tell us that workouts and lifestyle changes are only two of the three components that will help you reach your peak health and fitness. The third key they give? Community.

So it was no wonder that when my wife and I joined we instantly felt at home. Not because we’re fit — not at all! No, we felt at home because they invited us into their community. They emphasised clarity in what was going to happen and offered help where needed. After my first class, I even got a message on Instagram from someone apologising for not coming over to say hello.


Then one day recently, I walked into the gym to see three chaps I didn’t recognise, laughing with a member by the entrance. Before the class started, we were reminded by the coach to introduce ourselves to anyone new. It was a hint — these three were new. We then had an extensive rundown of everything that would happen in the next hour, and throughout this time, multiple people offered their welcome and advice. They’d only come because a colleague had invited them. He wanted them to be a part of that community.

As I left the gym that day, as someone who works with young adults as my job, the experience made me ask what we could learn as the church about welcoming others in.

The young adults we’re meeting have never been more isolated and we know many of them will be struggling to reintegrate back into society. They are lacking the confidence that comes from being a part of a social context during some of the most formative years of their life, so as the church we need to think how we can best encourage them as they enter our community. They have enough obstacles preventing them from wanting to come to church, let alone the fact that we may not be welcoming them well.

The first thing I think we need to reflect on is our attitude.


There’s a sign in our gym saying: Leave your ego at the door.” I love that. So often when we walk into a context today, we want to assert our presence. We feel the world around us rewards those who seek to be on top, but Paul calls us to use our freedom in Christ to serve one another (Galatians 5:13) and you don’t have to read very far along in the gospels to see Jesus call us to serve others (Luke 6:35 and Mark 9:35).

As we come to church, we need to have a posture of service. This means not seeking to talk only to friends, be comfortable and just see it out until we can go home and have lunch. We’re called to help others feel included through our service.

Secondly, a change in attitude affects our action.

Action (corporate and personal)

There are two components that our gym uses to encourage a strong welcome: the corporate and the personal. First, the corporate:

  • Create space: So often, we’re rushing in church and leave no time around the fringes to encourage people to grab a drink and welcome others. We’re focussed on the practicalities rather than the people. Where we can, let’s create an area, online or in person, to allow people space and time to welcome others.
  • Communicate clearly: In our churches, we often assume people know to welcome others, and know things like where the toilets are. We grow comfortable. But by keeping our communication strong, reminding people to say hello, letting people know what’s going to happen and where things are, we can honour not just our regular church attendees, but guests too.
  • Cultivate a welcoming church: This is clearly not done overnight, but we should be expecting everyone to welcome others. A motto one coach in our gym goes by is that we need to value people’s time and if they’ve taken the time to show up, we must honour that. Through teaching in large and small settings, we must encourage our churches to grow in their hospitality and welcome.

It’s great to see this on a corporate level, but ultimately this must come through on a personal level too:

  • Seek out new people: Often we’re afraid of this, in case someone’s not new. But all we have to say is, sorry, I don’t think we’ve met yet.” And if we have, no harm is done as our identity is in Christ. This means we can boldly step forward. Ask their name. Introduce them to friends. Get to know them. We can’t be waiting for them to come to us.
  • Serve them: One of my favourite things in a gym class is seeing other gym users helping those around them to understand what’s happening or how to do a movement. Often, church is strange and it’s hard to understand what you’re meant to do, where the toilets are and how to get a coffee. What if we had this same desire to come alongside those who are new, alone or struggling?
  • Send a message: Following up on those that we meet personally is so important. It might just be asking them to get a coffee, following them on social media or sending them a text, but showing them that you value them is a great next step.

This blog is part of 7 Conversations, a suite of interactive, integrated resources for leaders in local settings seeking to understand young adults and bring them into a rock-solid relationship with Jesus.

7 conversations your church needs to have to reach young adults

7 conversations your church needs to have to reach young adults

A suite of resources to help your church reach, engage and disciple 20s and 30s Find out more