Monday, March 30, 2009

thoughts on young adults and the church: part 2

OK, for those who haven't yet, my suggestion would be that you read the part 1 first. You can find it here. If you have read that one already, just keep reading this one.

Today is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to the attitude that some people in the church have about young adults.

The thinking: That if we just have good, upbeat, loud music we'll get young adults and they will stay.

Uh, are you sure? Do you know this for a fact?

Good music is a plus and it will attract young adults initially. But, if we're nothing more than another body to fill the pews on the weekend those that actually do want to be involved in the church won't stay. The majority of young adults I know stay with a church because they're connected, not because of the music. They feel like they have a place.

Now, before someone comes back at me with the argument that young adults won't commit and will go to many different churches in the course of a week, let me clarify the young adults I'm talking about in these blogs. The young adults that I'm speaking of are those who have a desire to commit to a local church and be involved. Honestly, this kind of young adult does exist! A large number of them are young adults who have grown up in the church and had church involvement modelled for them, but there are also young adults outside of this group of "church kids" that are looking for a church to call home.

OK, now that I've clarified that, back to my pet peeve. Good music alone will not keep us at a church as young adults. Neither, quite honestly, will good teaching and amazing speakers - at least it won't keep up forever. We may come when the speaker we like it teaching, but when the speaker moves on, the young adults that came for them will too.

Like most people in our world today, young adults crave and are actively seeking authentic community. We don't want image management (although we know how to do that when we're in situations where that seems to be what we need to do), we don't want to be just another face in the crowd - we want to belong! We want to be a part of something!

This means that the church needs to be a place the supports us in helping us to create places for young adults to meet together with other young adults. But, there also has to be a balance in helping us to feel a part of the larger church as well. We are at a unique stage in life. We often feel like we're kind of stuck between two worlds, and the church needs to acknowledge this and allow us and help us to straddle those two worlds (that of just beginning to establish a life independent of our parents, and that of being an adult).

The church cannot assume that the jump from one world to the other is an instantaneous jump, because it's not. We may be out of high school, but very few of us are truly independent from our parents for years to come because of post-secondary education. And even when we enter the workforce our lives still will look different from the lives of other adults that we work with and attend church with. If the church turns a blind eye to this difference they are doing themselves a dis-service in the future when there are no young adults.

Young adults crave authentic community! The will go where they find it! Good music and good teaching will not hold them for long if they feel anonymous and disconnected.

So, to the church: Please, stop assuming that your music and your preaching/teaching will keep us. We need you to acknowledge us part of your family and acknowledge that we are between two worlds and need opportunities to connect with other young adults. Challenge us. Call us to step up where we can. But, don't assume we can do it all on our own, or that we right away fit into other adult ministries. You don't have to pour resources of staff and money in our direction, but we need you to tangibly support us in what ways you can as we seek to connect with one another, and find our place in this world as adults.


  1. Agreed. It is an awkward place. We don't feel like we fit either in the general church community, aside from the few people that we are close with. We are close because they have welcomed us, seem to care about us as much as we care about them, and our schedules mesh. We also long for this 'authentic' community, even though we can't quite define it or describe how it would 'work/run', or 'where' it is. Any thoughts on that? ~ J

  2. This is me exploring things, because the church (in general in North America) is, I believe, at a bit of a crossroads as the currrent economy means we will probably have to change how we do things. We may not be able to just hire staff to do it as we used to. Right now, I have no ideas on hwo exactly this should/could look. I just hope to get people talking about how it should be.

    Authentic community - I don't think the church can create that for us. They can help us to provide a space for it, but ultimately we are the ones that have to make it happen if we want it. And it starts with taking the chance in ebing honest with one another about how life is really going - no more "church answers" about how everything must be good because God is good.