Monday, October 13, 2008

The Church and the Conversion of Emerging Adults

One of our Conference priorities is to reach a new generation of Christians. Our focus is upon the 18-30 age group, those who are being called “emerging adults.” If we are to reach this age group—the age group that we have sadly neglected and therefore find absence from our churches—we are going to have to understand them. Fortunately, a number of new books are helpful in that regard.

A major defining characteristic of this age group is their postponement of marriage. In just a couple of decades the average age for women to marry moved from 20-25 years old, and then the average age rose from 22 to 27 years old. Interestingly, this change in marriage began in 1970—about the same year that our church started losing membership and we began losing touch with the next generation.

Studies of the emerging generation seem to agree that the ages of 18-30, that is the threshold of adulthood, has become more complex, disjointed and confusing than in past decades. In his book Emerging Adulthood, Jeffrey J. Arnett (Oxford University Press, 2004) notes that young adults today put a high premium on finding their identity in an uncertain world. They are impressed with economic and political instability and live their lives accordingly. They focus much more on the self and less upon groups, and they tend to be overwhelmed by their sense of possibilities.

This summer I also read James L. Heft’s Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Fordam University Press, 2006). Adults, who grew up in the church retain very little of what the church taught them, says Heft. Our churches have not passed on the faith to our children. (The chances that someone who grew up in the United Methodist Church will still be United Methodist by age 30 are something like 1-6. For Episcopalians, Presbyterians and many others, the rate of attrition is even worse.) Jeffrey Arnett agrees with Heft’s gloomy analysis of those who happen to have grown up in the church. Arnett says, “The most interesting and surprising feature of emerging adults’ religious beliefs is how little relationship there is between the religious training they received throughout childhood and the religious beliefs they hold at the time they reach emerging adulthood….” A recent survey showed that today’s young adults attend church less, pray less, are less lik ely to believe in authority of the Bible, more likely to identify themselves as non-religious, and tend to be extremely suspicious of institutions and organized religion.

Not too long ago the church could count on a return to church by young adults when they had their first children. That appears not to be a pattern for today’s young adults. Because they are postponing marriage, the church can expect at least a 20 year gap between young adults leaving the church and returning. In her book, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young American’s are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled, and More Miserable than Ever Before, Janet Twenge(Free Press, 2006) depicts this generation of young adults as extraordinarily self-absorbed and narcissistic. Twenge thinks that we parents made a mistake in fostering in our children an aura of self-esteem, but did not give them realistic assessments of how challenging the adult world would be.

Today’s young adults are documented as having a great love of God, but less commitment to a particular religious tradition. When it comes to religion many of them are “dabblers and deferrers.” I believe that this is not only one of the most important challenges facing the church with this age group, but also one of our most difficult challenges as United Methodists.

Fortunately, we Wesleyans believe in conversion. We need to know more about what young adults need to be converted from and to. We also must set higher priorities on reaching today’s young adults. Young Christians are not a priority for us until every pastor spends as much time with this generation as with older generations, until each congregation shows in its staff, its budget, and its energies that it is really taking seriously our mandate to reach this generation for Christ. With God’s help, we can.

William H. Willimon

8 comments:

Greg Garrett said...

Thanks for these suggestions. A couple of other works that might be valuable in this regard are Phyllis Tickle's new book The Great Emergence (very good on explaining what the emerging generation is like) and Kinnaman and Lyons' UnChristian, a book every Christian should read, on the negative perceptions the majority in the emerging generation have toward Christianity.

B'ham Billy said...

The machine has outgrown the message. The issue was the same in the religious world that Jesus arrived in. Did He rely on books, polls, studies and trends to change things? IMO no, He relyed on truth.

Caleb Courtney said...

You make some excellent points. I think part of the issues is what my senior pastor calls, "extended adolescence." As teens move into college and beyond they still have a heavy reliance upon their parents. Many of the guys I graduated with still take direction and money from their parents even though they have entered the workforce. Instead of foraging their way and owning their convictions in college, this continued reliance upon parents retards this process and I believe that is why so many young adults are taking longer to come back to the church. Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging words. Your arguements call us to focus even more on childrenand for that I thank you.

maxgrace said...

Thank you for your research & insight into this subject. After many years in ministry, my opinion is that most churches DRIVE OUT their young people by refusing to change with the times. They then blame/wring their hands/and lament the younger generation.

We speak a good game about wanting young people, but then we insist they must adapt to OUR culture instead of adapting our culture to theirs.

Your kids will NOT like the worship style you like... it simply won't speak to them. Music, architecture, sermonic vocabulary, pace, volume, etc... all missionaries know what our American church leaders fail to grasp: every culture must be evangelized and allowed to worship on its own [biblical] terms.

It comes down to a self-centered and entitled ADULT congregation that refuses to give deference to a seeking younger generation.

I say this respectfully, in love, though I worry that the American church will quickly evaporate, as the European church has done.

Bill Giovannetti

coco0610 said...

wholesale jewelry
handmade jewelry
jewelry wholesale
fashion jewelry
costume jewelry
wholesale costume jewelry
wholesale fashion jewelry
wholesale pearl
wholesale crystal
discount jewelry
cheap jewelry

Anonymous said...

看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,美髮儀器,美髮,儀器,髮型,EMBA,MBA,學位,EMBA,專業認證,認證課程,博士學位,DBA,PHD,在職進修,碩士學位,推廣教育,DBA,進修課程,碩士學位,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,廣告,課程介紹,學分班,文憑,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,日式料理, 台北居酒屋,燒肉,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,造型系列,學位,牛樟芝,腦磷脂,磷脂絲胺酸,SEO,婚宴,捷運,學區,美髮,儀器,髮型,牛樟芝,腦磷脂,磷脂絲胺酸,看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,房子,捷運,學區,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,學位,碩士學位,進修,在職進修, 課程,教育,學位,證照,mba,文憑,學分班,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,SEO,关键词,网络广告,关键词广告,SEO,关键词,网络广告,关键词广告,SEO,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,居酒屋,燒烤,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,小套房,小套房,進修,在職進修,留學,證照,MBA,EMBA,留學,MBA,EMBA,留學,進修,在職進修,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,住宿,民宿,飯店,旅遊,美容,美髮,整形,造型,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,关键词排名,网络营销,網路行銷,關鍵字排名,关键词排名,网络营销,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,蔡依林,林志玲,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,蔡依林,林志玲,PMP,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,PMP,證照,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,網頁設計,網站設計,網頁設計,網站設計,网页设计,网站设计,网站设计,网页设计

moto said...

不動産
合宿 免許
網頁設計
ショッピング枠 現金化
クレジットカード 現金化
キャッシング
治験
フロント 仕事
幼児教室
名刺

xiaochiche88 said...

铜米机
碳雕
炭雕
活性炭
活性炭雕
空气净化产品
好想你枣
北京好想你枣
分子蒸馏
短程蒸馏
薄膜蒸发器
导热油
真空泵油
胎毛笔
手足印
婴儿纪念品
婴幼儿纪念品
飘人|飘人2008|云淡风清
铣刀
意大利留学
留学意大利
钢管舞
钢管舞培训
北京钢管舞
爵士舞
北京音皇国际
印刷厂
油锯
割草机
绿篱机
风力灭火机
留学意大利
意大利留学
好日子小吃车
好日子烧烤小吃车
好日子多功能小吃车
好日子烧烤车
中频感应熔炼锻造设备
高频感应加热钎焊设备
保护膜
佛具
律师事务所
北京律师事务所
法律咨询
北京律师
北京法律咨询
小吃车
多功能小吃车
烧烤小吃车
烧烤车
拓展训练
水泥艺术围栏
水泥艺术围栏设备
水泥艺术围栏机械
水泥栅栏设备
艺术护栏
艺术栏杆
环保艺术围栏
环保围栏
环保围栏机械
环保围栏设备
彩色艺术围栏
花瓶柱
阳台柱
阳台护栏设备
阳台护栏
塑料轴承
陶瓷轴承
破碎镐
铣刨机
china tours
china travel
china tour packages
tibet tour
泳池设备
桑拿设备
高低温试验箱
盐雾试验箱
割草机
风力灭火机
绿篱机
铜铝连接管
铜铝连接管焊机
千古一香小吃车
千古一香烧烤小吃车
千古一香多功能小吃车
千古一香无烟烧烤小吃车
搬家公司
北京搬家公司
北京朝阳区搬家公司
通州区搬家公司
北京通州区搬家
海淀区搬家公司
北京市丰台搬家公司
冷缠防腐胶带
环氧煤沥青冷缠带
防腐漆涂料
防腐材料
聚丙烯增强纤维防腐胶带
环氧富锌底漆
耐高温漆涂料
环氧树脂漆
环氧煤沥青
玻璃鳞片涂料胶泥
机柜
IBM机柜
APC机柜
VEOR机柜
切换器
好日子多功能小吃车
好日子小吃车
好日子烧烤小吃车
北京好日子小吃车加盟
好日子小吃车
好日子多功能小吃车
一品香小吃车
千古一香小吃车
上海租车
上海汽车租赁
上海租车网
平安保险北京
北京平安保险
石材翻新
石材结晶
石材养护
搬家公司
北京市搬家公司
朝阳区搬家公司
通州搬家公司
顺义搬家公司
亦庄搬家公司
玻璃喷砂机
喷砂机
打砂机
玻璃机械
北京印刷
北京印刷