The future is now! Connecting with the young adult generation (Week 1)

September 8, 2014

Connecting with young adults has been a daunting task for many church leaders. Young people who were once an integral part of the Children’s Ministry, fondly remembered as giving one-line speeches in the Easter Program or acting out the story of the first Christmas; now 30 years later are young adults. Because these young adults are now adults they want to be treated as such. They have mortgages, they have car notes, they have young families, they have financial struggles, school loans and they have a life they are trying to make for themselves and their families just as all adults are trying to do. Even with this understanding, there is still a major disconnect of the church with this age group. Because the Millennials (those born between 1980 through 2000) are grossly misunderstood and equally underutilized, the church is losing out on one of her greatest resources. There is an ever increasing conviction on the church to discern the times and develop strategies that will look quite differently from the way they have been doing church for most of the past several decades and reach this group of church goers. During conferences, one of the issues this writer continues to be asked is what churches can do to connect with the young adult generation. The problem is serious enough to give many of these church leaders reason to pause and think. In response, this month this writer will address this concern. In the final article of the series, this writer will offer suggestions congregations can utilize to begin building deeper, more lasting connections with Millennials.
A five-year project headed by Barna Group president David Kinnaman explored the opportunities and challenges of faith development among teens and young adults within a rapidly shifting culture. The findings of the research are included in the book by Kinnaman titled: You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church. These findings will be summarized in this column this week and next. Due to space limitations, only 5 of Kinnaman’s reasons will be outlined in this column this month.
The research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15.
Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective. A few of the defining characteristics of today’s teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their extraordinary consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-fourth of 18 to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23 percent indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22 percent) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18 percent).
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twenty-somethings’ experience of christianity is shallow. A second reason young people depart church as young adults is they feel something is lacking in their experience of church. one-three said “church is boring” (31 percent). One in four of these young adults said “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24 percent) or “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23 percent). Sadly, one in five who attended a church as a teenager said “God seems missing from my experience of church.”
Next Week:
The writer does not assume responsibility in any way for readers’ efforts to apply or utilize information or recommendations made in these articles, as they may not be necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. Rather, the objective is strictly informative and educational. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.