Young adults are described as many things. But one of the things that we could all say is that it’s a missing generation in national church. In the 2011 Census, 13% of 18-24yr olds in the UK described themselves as Anglican. Five years later, St Mary’s University conducted a similar study which reveals that now only 7% would describe themselves as Anglican.
In 10 years’ time, this generation of young adults (for the most part) will be marrying, looking to settle into communities and start families. Your church has a great opportunity to speak into the life of young adults and to include them within your community. Many of them are just waiting to be invited.
As a millennial in church, I know that it can feel hard to be heard, because there are so few of us, yet collectively we ache for our generation to know Jesus. This summer, some of us millennials from around the Diocese gathered together to discuss our hopes and fears for the future of the church. This video is the result of just that.
As you can see from that video, the desires in the heart of the young adult Christian community are good. I think the video speaks for itself, but just to reiterate a few points. Young adults hope that the church won’t become an insular social club and that it won’t satisfy the needs of church consumerism but instead it will prioritise biblical discipleship, act with compassion, serve it’s parish to make it look beautiful, and that it will minister to God’s heart.
- What kind of churches do young adults stick in?
Young adults care about integrity and authenticity. Do you have a mission statement or a set of values as a church, and are you delivering on that? Are your hands visibly dirty from the mission you say that you are involved in. Young adults care about community. Do you have a high standard of invitation and welcome where there are plenty of opportunities to connect (whether over food, the Bible and social events)? Young adults care about serving. Do you provide opportunities to get stuck in serving together as a whole church? Most importantly, young adults care about your focus. A church that is inward-looking and concerned about its own community will feel intimidating or awkward for a young adult to join. A church that is, on the other hand, outward-looking and concerned about meeting the needs of the parish is both welcoming and exciting.
- What happens when young adults get involved in church?
Discipleship. Millennials, broadly speaking, can be unreliable, fragile, flaky, frustrating… In the video you just saw, about 30ish of the 60 to 70 young adults contacted said that they were able to come. And of that 30, 12 actually came. But, those young adults who are present are creative, they are happy to serve, they provide youth and children with role models to look up to, they have a large understanding of the blend between different cultures. And where young adults are, intergenerational ministry thrives, as they are capable disciplers who still need discipling.
You might be thinking, “Where can I get myself some young adults.” I’ve got a couple of answers for you. Firstly, they’re already in your church, it’s just that right now, they are 2 years old, or 10, or 16.. If you don’t have any young adults currently in your church, I urge you, don’t lose your children and your youth. They need just as much nurturing. Secondly, it’s better that you simply encourage eating together and growing community as a group that is always open and not too insular. You may find that young adults start to come along simply because of the nature of the community rather than because you are purposefully trying to reach them.