|Seeking Relationship With Emerging Adults…
How often have you heard it said, “young people are leaving the church” or “they’re just lazy Millennials” or the iPhone has made them “spiritual but not religious”. Has the church given up on the Millennial generation? Are there ways that the church can define its relationship with this generation and take people ages 18-29 seriously? In January, the classis leaders in our region and I attended a learning event on Emerging Adults with about 50 RCA staff and leaders. We had the opportunity to learn and reflect on the facts or fiction of what it means for today’s church to reach out to emerging adults. Dr. Steve Argue, a professor from Fuller Seminary, was the guest speaker.
Steve encouraged us not to blame emerging adults but to recognize the journey this generation is on to adulthood. He identified these characteristics in their journey:
· These people are exploring their identity – trying out various possibilities, especially in love, work and belief
· These people interested in talking about spirituality and religion, but they need space to share their doubts and the complexities of life.
· These people who need to be accepted, supportive and want a sense of belonging
· These are people seeking open conversation about good news
· These people are enmeshed in social media
This next generation is emerging – still trying to figure out love, work, and belief in a very complex world. They are not disinterested in talking about spirituality and religion but they need space and other people who are willing to listen and engage in conversation. The church can serve them best by recognizing that this is a significant formation time in their lives. People in the church need to have the kind of relationship with emerging adults which allows them to seek the truth and to help them in that process without judgment or blame.
Steve reported on some of his latest research on Millennials and emerging adults:
· 88% of undergraduates’ religious preferences stem from the Christian tradition
· 80% have an interest in spirituality
· 83% believe in the sacredness of life
· 76% are searching for meaning/purpose in life
· 79% believe in God
· 81% attended religious services occasionally or frequently
· 69% looked to their religious beliefs for guidance
· Two-thirds pray and 28% pray daily.
So what questions should a church ask about reaching this next generation? Here are some to consider.
1) How do we equip our congregation to engage in dialogue with emerging adults?
2) What language should our church use that is helpful in attempting to communicate with an emerging adult?
3) In what ways does your church’s communication style/language hinder your interest in connecting or being involved with emerging adults? What about those phrases we often hear like: “When I was your age the church…” Or “You remind me of my own kids when…” What impact does the use of that language have on emerging adults in your context?
4) What opportunities exist for emerging adults to be involved in your church?
5) What might keep emerging adults from becoming involved in your church?
6) Is there one thing that emerging adults wish your congregation knew about them in regards to their experience in the church?
If you wish to read more about caring and serving the next generation in your church order the book: “Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young Adults Discover and Love Your Church” by Kara Powell and Jake Mulder. Mark your calendars for May 11. A partnership of the Wisconsin Classis, the Regional Synod of Mid-America and the Evangelical Free Church Network of Youth Ministries will host an equipping event with Steve Argue who will speak about how churches can better connect with emerging adults. The event will be held in the Sheboygan, WI area at Remedy Church. Forming relationships with emerging adults is a felt need in congregations overall as most congregations are aging. This event is a great opportunity for transformation and growth as leaders intentionally engage with emerging adults in their churches and communities.
— Wayne Van Regenmorter