The huge number of young people raised in a pew who are now exiting out the backdoor of the Church is an alarming trend in the
profiles this elusive group of formerly or soon-to-be formerly churched young people.
Despite all our best efforts to serve great coffee, create community, and maybe even use clever marketing hooks to catch their attention, young adults are still bailing on the Church.
It is absolutely vital that within the first few years of adulthood, the Church deeply engages in the life of young people. After over a decade working with a lost, curious, and wandering crowd of young people and living in a town full of the formerly churched (in Whistler, BC), here are ten areas of connection I believe will help us call back this generation.
Connect the Scriptures
Actively exploring and connecting Scripture to Jesus, his Kingdom, its values, and life is vital. Taught, understood, and given the opportunity to dialogue with Scripture themselves, the meta-story of Scripture is attractive to young adults.
Connect in Mission
Connecting faith with real mission promotes a faith outside the church in and among the realities of work, campus, and relational life. Connecting the skeleton of faith with the flesh of the incarnation propels the faith of many twenty-somethings. Short-term projects promote hands on service without scaring off twenty-somethings who might be afraid of commitment. Show young adults a cause and invite them into a “one off” volunteer experience and you’ll help craft memories, relationships, and future commitments.
Authenticity promotes depth, trust, and credibility with young people beyond the superficial: this means we must invite them into our lives, and not just for a moment! Rather, we invite young people into the victories and muck of real life—theirs and ours.
Serving the next generation in ministry is a long-haul project. In a culture of constant transition, longevity of relationship promotes consistency, stability, and familiarity in young people’s lives. Long-term relationships help orientate wanderers and is one of the few constants within their shifting worlds.
Connect on the Issues
Dealing with taboo and morally grey issues promotes much-needed filters for young adults as they traverse these muddied subjects. By connecting a thoughtful Biblical narrative and a grace-based filter through which to dialogue, young adults are eager to discuss sex, wealth, justice, power, alcohol, marijuana, and political movements like the Montreal student protests.
The treasure of multi-generational ministry is felt most strongly by our next generations. Connecting young people in the lives of those younger and older promotes Biblical mentorship models and encourages a unity found in the diversity of our local churches.
Churches with significant influence in the lives of young people almost always default to youth in their budget, resources, personnel, communication, and ministry practices. Evaluate your budget through the lens of youth ministry: Are young adults a priority? Does your budget reflect this?
Connect Young Leaders
Where young people lead, young people will follow. Churches that provide young leaders key leadership positions of authority and responsibility promote “church ownership,” and empower and encourage other young people considering their own role and identity within a church.
When we tell stories it promotes more stories being told, many of which will surprise and shock you. Three stories I constantly tell young adults: (1) I tell true stories about myself and the Church that they already suspect but never thought I’d admit to; (2) I tell true stories about them they never thought I’d know; and (3) I tell true stories of God.
Connect Through Simple Living
Churches who promote spiritual practices like Sabbath, hospitality, and generosity are places young adults enjoy interacting with. Simple living encourages a slower more rhythmic pace to life. There is a reason “Zen-marketing” works among young people: they don’t want to live the over-worked and over-cluttered life of their parents. Slow your church calendar down and watch as more young adults connect with you.
Jeremy Postal has spent over a decade working primarily with a lost and wandering crowd of 20-somethings. He is based out of Whistler, BC and writes regularly at www.jeremypostal.com.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church visit www.hemorrhagingfaith.com.