By Andy Johnson, Pastor Crossroads Baptist Church Farmerville
Young adults – ages 18-35, are missing from our church attendance rolls. They seem to be a riddle wrapped up in a mystery tucked away inside an enigma.
There is no “chapter and verse” proven procedure or program to get a young adult interested in church. Young adult attendance is an anomaly.
Many churches work and toil and labor to the point of hopelessness to get young adults active within the Body of Christ. We would do well to take a moment and look at what has replaced church in a young adult’s life. And the more you look, the more bizarre the reasons get.
In an article published on a Protestant website, a study done in March of this year linked church attendance to obesity.
Researchers at Northwestern University followed more than 2,400 people ages 20 to 32 for a period of 18 years and found middle-aged congregants who attended religious services on a consistent basis were twice as likely to become obese.
Okay, so maybe young adults abstain from church because they don’t want to gain weight? Sounds a bit shaky to me.
A 2007 Pew poll reported that eighteen out of one hundred young adults, ages 18 – 30, leave the church for “political reasons.” The same poll reports 26 out of 100 leave the church because “church members seem judgmental or hypocritical.”
Then you have the ‘summer sleepers’ who contribute to the ‘summer slump.’ These are the ones who take a vacation during the summertime, children in tow, and in doing so somehow permanently vacate the church.
Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, said recently that if the trend in young adults abstaining from church continues, “… the Millennial Generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.”
Obesity, politics, criticism, and vacations can’t be the only reasons why there is a gaping hole in young adult church attendance. We have to at least consider the possibility that young adults are just plain bored with church.
I voiced this to a friend recently, and his reply may be the same as yours: “What are we supposed to do? Put on a show for them?” Not exactly. Ministers are not called to entertain goats – we are called to feed sheep.
However, there are things we can do to change the method of communicating our message. And probably the number one thing that needs to be examined in many Baptist churches is worship.
Let me first state that I am 31 years old and I am a young adult. And I love “The Old Gospel Ship” just as much as “God of Wonders.” However, I’m different, when compared with my peers, who are tired of “old-fashioned” worship. “Worship wars” only drive young adults away. The technology that is available to churches to aid in creating meaningful worship is nearly unlimited. If we’re willing to blend, mix, change, and try a few new things in worship, we may generate a renewed interest.
Another area we would do well to address is the family. Many young adult couples have no desire to drag their children kicking and screaming to a bland, lifeless nursery or children’s church. As a parent of three children, I understand.
A few cans of bright paint and a happy, dedicated and loving children’s minister/volunteer can do worlds of good. A facility update is always good.
Young adult fellowships and small group gatherings outside of the church can stimulate interest. In our part of the country, a crawfish boil may be in order, or maybe a young ladies’ informal gathering at a member’s house.
Once the relationship has been established (or re-established), invite young adults to Sunday School. Let them know there is a community of believers who will help them to grow spiritually and support them however they can.
But most importantly, whatever method you employ to reach out to young adults, make sure that Christ is the center of all things.
Decide beforehand the love of Jesus will permeate all you do as you seek to rescue young adults from the world and bring them back to church.