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Young Adults and Church

May 20, 2008

Now that we are back from a wonderful vacation (where I opted for some fiction novels), it’s back to theology/ministry reading. I just started working through After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty-and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion, by Robert Wuthnow (Professor of sociology, and the director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University). I’ve had this on my bookshelf for a few months and wanted to get to this before summer if possible.

I’ve been looking for some good resources that would promote purposeful conversation about young adults in church life, and this one looks to be well worth while. I have to admit, I’m usually a little nervous about reading sociologists (one of my Prof’s-himself a Soc. Prof-stated often in class that sociologists were terrible writers. He was often correct. And yes, I realize that some theologians are lousy writers too…), but Wuthnow so far has been very engaging. He works data and commentary together pretty seamlessly, and makes his points direct. It’s actually enjoyable to read, and I’m picking up a number of points to help me think of some kind of road map ministry with young adults.

I am still in that young adult group, but since I have been in full-time church ministry since college, I have basically run in different circles than most of my fellow young adults. By remaining active in the church, I am different than some others in my age group, because I spend most of my time with generations both older and younger than us. Sadly, we usually have to go outside the traditional church to find other young adults. I have wondered for years about how to change this dynamic, usually falling back to the old “plan some young adult events” strategy. Which is also a strategy that many churches believe will solve the issue. I will readily admit that this has not worked, and I will also admit that it just smacks of creating an “older youth group”. It may be why so many young adults don’t attend those activities. So how can we truly welcome them (challenge them?) into the life of the church community, recognizing that the cultural dynamics have changed? This is what I want to think about.

I’m hoping to review this resource and share some thoughts on young adult ministry here, and would appreciate input and stories from others.

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