More on young adults and the church

Brandon J. O’Brien explores the religious views of 20-somethings in three posts at Out of Ur. Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

O’Brien was teaching a World Religions course in a community college and gave his students writing assignments that explored their religious commitments, beliefs, and practices. He was sobered by what he read. Among his conclusions:

Very few of my students could identify any way religion might impact their daily lives, specifically their future personal and professional goals. Even the students who consider themselves committed Christians failed to recognize what difference their faith made, say, in their marriages or careers. They could point to superficial things—like wanting to be married in their church, which meant they had to marry a fellow Christian—but couldn’t go much deeper than that.

Skye Jethani read this posts and reflected, producing: Back to (a Theology of) Work We Go….

Interesting reflections on outreach to young adults, beginning with this premise:

Our religious lives, our communion with God and formation as his people, primarily plays out in two spheres of our lives–family and work. Our closest relationships (marriage, children, parents) are where we experience the joys and pains of life most acutely. They are where we practice, or fail to practice, love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, etc. So it would make sense that we utilize family relationships as a key context for discipleship–learning and applying the teachings of Christ.

The church has focused its efforts on the family, leaving vocation and work to the side. What does this mean for young adults who are delaying marriage? That we have nothing to say to what is the primary sphere in which they live and search for meaning:

We have not been trained or conditioned to consider a person’s vocation as a central part of their lives or spiritual formation. It is not a venue most churches value or equip their members for. But work is where most adults (young and old) spend most of their time and what occupies most of their identity. Without the ability to connect faith to either family or work, there is little remaining to engage young adults other than entertaining gatherings or a celebrity in the pulpit.

David Kinnaman of the Barna Group offers six reasons why young people leave the church. An interview with him on NPR.

I’ve got no clue on how to solve the problem, how to reach out to young adults, but it seems to me, that authenticity is key. We’ve got to be able to speak to them in a language they understand and relate to, and offer them relationships that are life-giving and transforming. What strikes me at Grace is that we don’t have trouble attracting young adults to our services. We have some difficulty getting them connected, but very often they do, even when we don’t make it particularly easy. Above all, we have to be open and welcoming, and allow them to set the terms for our relationship, not impose expectations on them.


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