Why should we prioritize Young Adults in church?
I have undertaken a bit of research and read lots of articles that I will be using for this article and have found that according to a research by Innovista and UK Evangelical Alliance 96% of UK churches feel that working with 16-30 year olds should be a priority but only 11% felt well-resourced to do so.
There are some remarkable statistic about church dropouts and this might not be true here in our context but the statistics would still be dramatic either way: 70 % of young adults drop out of church.
Only 11% of regular churchgoers are between the ages of 25 and 34, whilst 16% of the UK population is within that age group. In tracking church decline, the greatest losses per year are occurring amongst those aged 15 to 29. However, there are churches bucking this trend.
Some people in our churches believe that it is just too hard to reach the 20s 30s with the gospel. So are we saying that the power of the gospel is less powerful for this generation? No! Are we saying that this generation is not spiritual at all? In fact the opposite could be said. Is Jesus relevant to us? Definitely! Has the local church become irrelevant? In many cases, Yes! Starbucks? Yes! Boring worship? No!
Here are some common characteristics about the 20s-30s today
Postmodernism: It is not possible to overstate the impact of this factor. Postmodernists believe that the world has no centre and no guiding principles and truths; it has only different viewpoint and perspectives. Many Christian leaders continue to battle modernist ideas, unaware that the issues have shifted. The question we are asking is not ‘Is Christianity true?’ now we ask ‘What makes Christians suppose they have the ONLY truth?’
Spirituality: We are deeply a spiritual generation. However spiritual doesn’t mean Christian any more. 20s and 30s are investigating the diversity of religious faiths. Young adults are looking for experiences, they want to experience God. 20s and 30s are no longer interested in churches that water down the real message of the gospel. Rather the church needs to be challenging them with Jesus’s message and that teaching the Gospel can impact everything they are doing every day of their lives, says Krish Kandiah. 20s and 30s are the time of life when Christians and non-Christians are most receptive to hearing the radical call to follow Jesus whole-heartedly, whatever the cost. And yet according to Krish, often the church instead of calling people to active discipleship often presents what it perceives to be a more palatable version of the gospel but which is often so watered down that it is particularly unappetising.
Justice: This generation is deeply concerned about justice and social issues and they want to make a difference. So why not use these passions, provide them with opportunities and help young adults meet Jesus through helping them become part of God’s mission in this world.
Intellectuality: The answer to all of our questions is only a click away from us. Who was Steve Jobs? Let’s put it into google. Young adults have a lot of knowledge and understanding already. 20s-30s want to have clear answers and explanations about why something is true and they want to talk about deeper, relevant and real issues that concern them and they want to be able to have open discussions. They don’t want to hear things they have already heard, they want to go deeper. They want to know how everything they learn at church relates to their lives.
Need for community: Young adults are looking for relationships and looking for communities where they can belong. They want to be listened to and be able to ask their questions and feel respected and accepted by others. This generation is looking for the sense of family that might have been lost.
Authenticity: Affirmation, openness and vulnerability are essential relational skills to reach young adults. Leaders must be open and accept the young adults as they are and learn to open up about their own problems and struggles. This generation is sensitive to the salesmen approach. Spend time with us and invest in us and then we will listen what you have got to say.
How can a traditional church reach young adults?
Having young adult-only, or young adult-heavy worshipping communities inside existing congregations or starting new intergenerational worshipping communities can be helpful.
Intentionally involving young adults in leadership and getting feedback and ideas from them helps the whole church to grow as well as the young adults ministry to flourish. Having younger people in long-term pastoral and worship leadership seems to be important.
According to a research most churches where the young adults ministry grows the worship is informal and innovative. Young adults who were interviewed commented that this was something that attracted them and kept them in the church community. In the study some young adults commented that often they don’t mind if the songs are perhaps traditional but what attracts them if they are done in a fresh way and the words are meaningful and personal to them. According to this research congregations with significant use of technology were twice as likely to have many young adults as were congregations with minimal technology. Offering food and worship around food and drinks helps nurture and keep young adults in the fold. In this research young adults were present at those churches where they were intentional about reaching out to young adults, it did not happen by accident. 7 of the 10 case study congregations, the pastoral leaders have made incorporating young adults a personal priority. Congregations that reported the greatest emphasis on young adult ministry were twice as likely to report engaging a significant number of young adults.
Congregations reporting high levels of spiritual vitality were three times as likely to have significant numbers of young adults as congregations with low spiritual vitality. What we are looking for is something that will touch us. We want to connect with the divine in a palpable way.
But with the aging of many congregations, incorporating changes from adding electric guitars at worship to integrating young adults into leadership positions becomes even more imposing.
“The church has to go through a process of change,” Sahlin said. “That has been difficult every step of the way.”
For faith communities who may have given up hope, however, the study provides some encouragement. Fulfil the spiritual needs of believers in their 20s and 30s, and they will come.