Annual Conference 2014 Engaging in Ministry with Young Adults
Rev. Jake Waybright, Kris Sledge, Rev. Anna Layman Knox,
Pastor Mindi Ferguson, Pastor Luke Harbaugh, and Rev. Matt Lake

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Reality Today
There are currently 50 million young adults (ages 18-35) in the US, about 15% of our population.  This is one of the most diverse age brackets, including those in college, seeking full time employment, working full time, married, single, dating, parents, single parents, divorced, widow/widowers.

Only 25% of young adults (those 19-35 years) are engaged in the church. While teenagers are some of the most religiously active Americans, 61% of Protestant young adults have dropped out of attending church regularly. 1

In the UMC, clergy under 35 are only 5.9% of our current clergy.  In Susquehanna Conference we have 7.75% of our clergy (elders, deacons & lay pastors) under 35.  Today the average age of clergy in the Susquehanna Conference is 55 years old.2

You Lost Me
You Lost Meby David Kinnamann and Barna Group identify 6 leading reasons millennials disconnect from church and/or faith.

       • Overprotective:  For a generation that values entrepreneurs, innovators, and starters, “the church is seen as a creativity killer where risk taking and being involved in culture are anathema.”

       •  Shallow:“The most common perception of churches is that they are boring.  Easy platitudes, proof texting, and formulaic slogans have anesthetized many young adults, leaving them with no idea of the gravity and power of following Christ. [ . . . ] the Christianity they received does not give them a sense of calling.”

       •  Anti-Science:  “Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible.  [ . . .] what’s more, science seems accessible in a way that the church does not; science appears to welcome questions and skepticism, while matters of faith seem impenetrable.”

       •  Repressive:“Religious rules – particularly sexual mores – feel stifling to the individualistic mindset of young adults.“

       •  Exclusive:  “They have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance.”

       •  Doubtless:  Young Christians (and former Christians too) say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts.  They do not feel safe admitting that faith doesn’t always make sense.

Starting Conversation within Your Church
No book has “the answer” or will automatically increase your young adults in the congregation, but these will provide great conversation around the complexity of this age stage to spark conversation.  Consider engaging leaders of the church in these conversations if this age stage is truly who you want to welcome into our church.

       •  You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . And Rethinking Faithby David Kinnaman

       •  The Sacredness of Questioning Everythingby David Dark

       •  The Quarter-Life Breakthrough by Adam Smiley Poswolsky

       •  Dear Churchby Sarah Cunningham

       •  The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation by Thom S. Rainer and Jess W. Rainer 

Connecting with Young Adults
Young adults crave authentic relationships and want to make a difference. They are faced with personal moral decisions and questions, and some starting to raise families; they want to know where and why they stand for their beliefs. 

Young adults embrace churches that teach love of community and action in the community (they want to be missional and incarnational); but are highly critical of churches doing business as usual and only helping themselves. 

How can a church engage young adults….

      1)  Read up on young adults and the problems they face (likely different than when most of your church was a young adult)

      2)  Ask young adults in your community to share their thoughts on church, God, and Jesus.  Listen more than you talk.

      3)  Engage your community.  Learn the needs of your community and invite young adults to participate in service.  

Start to engage young adults in conversation and mission…the church needs their energy, passion, and presence to succeed. 

1 You Lost Me, page 22.

2 Clergy Age Trends in the United Methodist Church: 2013 Report, Lewis Center for Church Leadership.