Young adults: Engines of today’s Church

youngpplYoung adults have gotten a bad wrap.  My generation–18 to 35 years old–goes by a variety of labels: Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials, the Entitlement Generation.  This is the generation that politicians and churches try to recruit, but often fail to reach.

Yet, these generations are also reviled.  “Kids these days,” people say, “don’t take responsibility, and they don’t know how to work hard.”

People tend to forget that times have changed.  In days gone by, you can work at an after-school  or part-time job  and earn a little money for savings.  Now, a minimum wage job pays below the poverty level; high education costs and debt stifle investments.

With a growing economy and more affordable healthcare, however, it looks like things are finally turning around for the better.

In a recent article in USA Today titled “Young Adults May Spark Economy“, Paul Davidson reported that young people–about 44% of the generation I just described–will be purchasing or renting homes in the next year.

This is great news: People are moving out of their parents’ house; employment is rising; debt and student loans are getting paid off.

The increase in young adult independence means an increase in the economy as a whole.  As Davidson noted, a growing young adults consumer market could “turbocharge [economic] growth” and send a “ripple across the economy.”

What does this mean for the church?  For one, if young adults are becoming economically empowered in the marketplace and taking ownership of an independent future, they have the potential to take more ownership in Christ’s Church.

It is said that the people who pay for and run the church are from older generations.  That is true based on my own experience: people from previous generations provide most of the leadership in church and clams in the coffers.

So let me speak boldly to my generation: It is time to grow up!  Without us, many of our churches–the very sacred places that nurtured us and raised us in the faith we hold dear–need our investments of time, money, and creative leadership.

Now that we have some money to spend and independence from debt, it is the time to get serious about church.  When jobs are prevalent, housing is stable, and debts are few, a budget that includes tithes and offerings–and a time-management plan that includes God–must be a priority.

Now let me be bold with Christ’s Church: You need to let young adults lead committees, craft liturgies and ministries that meet a diverse set of needs, and take ownership of a few things we’ve been afraid to surrender.

I’ve seen this work very effectively at Haven Fellowship Church here in Conyers.  The attendance of their young adults ministry has increased almost four-fold over the last several years, and their church found renewed vigor in crafting a vision that includes their participation.

But this only happened because the church took brave, strategic steps in getting young adults involved: They asked young adults to head committees, create new ministries, and participate in fellowship opportunities that widened the church’s welcome to other young families.

That Haven has not moved to contemporary worship with fancy technology or marketing should be noted.  Many churches think they need to become song- and tech-savvy to attract young adults; that’s not the case–young adults want to take ownership and have input; they want to feel connected without having to sacrifice what they value most: a voice in church leadership.

Of course, this assumes young adults have a voice worth listening to.  It is true that our generation needs to step up and pay their dues, work hard, and prove that churches can count on us.

We can no longer expect the church to be there for us when we’re not there for the church.

The church–and our generation–is at a pivotal place in history.  We need to stand up for the Body of Christ and keep it going; we need to lead it into a future in which creative entrepreneurship will be the church’s greatest ministry engines to meet the needs of tomorrow and the day after that.

Published by Joe LaGuardia

I am a pastor and author in Vero Beach, Florida, and write on issues related to spirituality, faith, politics, and culture.

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