Here are some resources that I recommend for those who want to minister to emerging adults. Our recommendations does not mean that we agree with everything stated in the book, or with all beliefs of the author.
I am thankful for the work and research that is happening at Fuller Youth Institute. Here is an article promoting their up-coming book – Growing Young. It is written by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin.
For our book “Growing Young,” we researched more than 250 congregations. When we spoke to more than 1,300 young churchgoers, ages 15 to 29, they told us what they want: authenticity and connection.
When we analyzed the terms that young adults used to describe the churches or parishes that they chose, we noticed repeated words:welcoming, accepting, belonging, authentic, hospitable and caring. We began to call this the “warmth cluster.”
If you have a heart for ministering to the needs of emerging adults, you should stay connected to what is happening at the Fuller Youth Institute.
I only have one comment about the article, and it is the picture which I assume was not picked by the authors. Large Christian events are not what I would classify as the “Warm” sought out by the authors, but from my perspective would fall under the “Cool” method of doing ministry.
Emerging Adults are not the only ones who are leaving the church. According to the authors of Church Refugees, “The phenomenon of people walking away from congregation-based church has much more to do with how our culture has evolved over the years for everyone, not simply for emerging adults.” (76) While the decline in church participation is greatest among Millennials, churches are seeing decline in every generation.
While I do not hold a negative attitude toward the Millennial Exodus, those who love the church should examine cultural trends, and how God is calling us into a new season of ministry in a rapidly changing world. Unfortunately, the authors’ research was not based upon a broad or diverse sample. The researchers state that the sample was diverse geographically, socioeconomically, generationally, and gender; however, the responders were 92% white. (10)
During their research, the authors coined the expression, “the Dones” to represent the individuals who were once active in church participation, but no longer attend. Some of these individuals may also be classified as a None (who declare no religious faith) while others still hold tightly to faith (and yet are “Done” with the organized church). The dechurched, as they sometimes are referred to are “disproportionately people who were heavily involved in their churches.” (50)
The book offers solutions about how to begin bringing these church refugees back into churches. The authors share how, “In order to reengage the dechurched, then, our respondents are clear that the church needs to adopt policies and practices that disseminate power, reduce the role of the pastor as the holder and conveyor of all knowledge, and utilize organizational resources to empower people rather than to control them.” (94) These are important topics that need to be discussed within our churches.
This book contains the “story of what happens when an organization invests in training and discipling scores of people, and yet does very little to retain them or reengage them when they leave.” (11) I discovered within this book a call to action.
The Nones won’t go to church, and they are afraid of church leadership. The church needs to provide healing and help for those who have left wounded (those suffering from PTCD – Post-Traumatic Church Disorder).
A rehabilitation process and program is needed for Christians wounded led by Jesus’ followers who can work outside the organized church and possess gifts of mercy and compassion. If we fail to meet this call, “the church continues to run off faithful followers who are, by their nature or religious conviction, conciliatory, compromising, and nonjudgmental, then we will continue to see a church that’s increasingly insular, alienating, and irrelevant.” (19)
As the church, we should be passionate about reaching the Nones. Instead of cycling through decades of “evangelism tactics” like concerts, outreach events, seeker-sensitive bible studies, or tracts, maybe it is time to look around us and backward in time towards those we have hurt and have left behind. I completely agree with their statement that “the Dones and the almost Dones are the strongest bridge to the Nones.” (137)
Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources, a non-profit designed to help parents and parents understand emerging adulthood.
During my seminary years, I took a class on discipleship. I enjoyed our teacher. I enjoyed the class. I did not enjoy the final class project. We were supposed to design an image and curriculum that conveyed our plan of discipleship.
I hated it. Going through the hoops, I sketched out some baseball diamond shape, but I would never have used it (partially because I cannot imagine celebrating “second base” with a disciple). As modernism invaded our seminaries, students and professors planned and objectified everything about the faith – including disciple-making.
Discipleship cannot be summed up in a curriculum, or Jesus could have simply written a textbook.
Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation by Richard Dunn and Jana Sundene was published by Intervarsity in 2012. This book steps towards removing the modernistic perspective by inspiring the church to build intergenerational relationships for the cause of the Kingdom. Along with the authors, I believe, “Fully mature spiritual adulthood cannot be reached without intentional relationships that invest Christ’s grace, truth, and love into the young adult’s life.” (Dunn, 16)
I appreciate their understanding of the challenges facing emerging adults (who are currently Millennials) without bashing them. They state,
A caring disciple maker does not soothe the unpleasant aspects of this stage away. Instead, they value this God-given time of life as a way for the young adult to become more attuned to the work of becoming like Christ. (Dunn, 40)
The authors’ understand that, “Among today’s emerging adults, often there are less consistent markers, making ‘reaching adulthood’ more confusing.” (Dunn and Sundene, 40) Marking the road to adulthood by developmental markers (rather than traditional markers like marriage, children, buying a home, or having a job) helps emerging adults continue to mature. I believe there are three main developmental markers for emerging adults: Discovering Vocation, Establishing Autonomy, and Developing Community.
The book presents three “Life-giving Rhythms” for Spiritual Transformation. I appreciate the imagery provided by the phrase “life-giving” because sometimes our spiritual development appears to drain the life out of us rather than give us the life that Jesus speaks about in John 10:10. Their three rhythms are:
“Disciplemaking relationships can take multiple forms, varying in style and approach according to the personalities involved.” (Dunn and Sundene, 65) Listening to the voice of God on the behalf of another requires discernment. A disciple-maker’s desire is not simply for us to examine their lives and see what we want changed, but to listen to them and discern what God is doing.
Spiritual depth in relationships rarely happens naturally, but requires intentionality. “Intentionality produces positive spiritual tension.” (Dunn and Sundene, 91) Disciple-making is filled with “awkward” moments that are not to be avoided, but cherished.
I appreciate their emphasis upon the importance of reflection for both emerging adults, and those working with them. Emerging adults are too focused on surviving the present, and forget to savor the past. It is important for all Christians to reflect on God’s work and faithfulness in the past in order to hold to faith in the present.
These three aspects frame their practical applications, and are helpful for those seeking to impact others. What a great gift to the church in order to help us move towards a new era of disciple-making.
The “life-giving rhythms” of spiritual transformation should not be practiced only by older adults, but both sides of intergenerational relationships give and receive. This is what makes the body of Christ not dependent on one another, but interdependent as God designed us to be.
Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources, a non-profit designed to provide resources to churches and parents of emerging adults.
Just read a powerful article by Ann Voskamp, a NY Time best-selling author of A Thousand Gifts. This article is important because it discusses what to teach our adolescents and emerging adults about sexual abuse and violence.
Here is the Article!
It is longer than many articles, so make sure that you have the time to read and digest it. Each time that I have read it, I finished inspired and encouraged in my role as a man and father of three sons.
Wow, here are a few of my favorite quotes.
1. And better stories begin around our dinner tables and our kitchen sinks.
Stories around our dinner tables and kitchen requires spending time together as a family. This requires saying no to the endless activities of our world, and saying yes to better things.
2. It is the scarred ones who make the Body of Christ sensitive.
I know because I am a scarred one. I was actually scarred by the church (and I am not alone). I am not thankful to those who gave them to me, but I am grateful to the God who sustains me daily. These scars don’t define me, but they have shaped me in ways I once never imagine.
3. You don’t value a woman by telling yourself that she’s some man’s sister, or daughter, or mother. A woman doesn’t derive value from having men in her life that value and like her. A woman has value because she is made in the image and likeness of God. Period.
I have heard this false argument so many times. Women do not receive their value due to their relationships with men. They have value because of their relationship to God as Creator. I don’t want my sons to treat women respectfully because they fear a dad sitting in the living room cleaning a gun. I want my sons to fear God to whom they will give an account one day.
4. That’s what you have to get, Sons — Real Manhood knows the heart of God for the daughters of His heart.
I want my sons to know that Real Manhood understands God’s love for men and women.
5. Son, let everything you read of women be shaped by how Jesus sealed His view and value of women.
There is a beautiful piece of poetry in the center about Jesus’ view of women. It is amazing.
May God make me a real man who will stand up for the value of women in the church.
May God make me a real father who will teach my sons to value women.
May God do the same to you.
The one act in the Creation record that is not labeled as good is that man was alone. God created us to have community with Him and one another. According to Frazee, “People need to be involved in meaningful and constant community or they will continue on indefinitely in a state of intense loneliness.” (Frazee)
Frazee points out that America’s obsession with independence often keeps them from seeking the community that the need. It is essential for the individual to be able to develop a community in order sustain healthy adulthood. Frazee says, “I would suggest that one of the major obstacles to community is America is that we don’t need each other anymore. We are independent people. … Sadly, when a person becomes independent of others, they get the loneliness and isolation that accompany it as well.” (Frazee)
Here a few of Frazee points that I believe are worth noting.
Beyond Small Group Ministry
Many churches advertise that people will find community in a small group, but they might as well be selling snake oil. Hopeful of finding authentic community, many people leave a small-group feeling disillusioned and frustrated. The purpose of small groups is not small groups. The purpose is to achieve, “The development of meaningful relationships where every member carries a significant sense of belonging [which] is central to what it means to be the church. (Frazee) We must remember that our goal is authentic community, and I believe Frazee’s book gives great direction to individuals and churches to reach that goal.
Frazee is not a fan of complex, program-driven churches. “This will require that the church not develop competing activities or functions at the church but rather allow the small group members to simplify their church lives by means of this one group.” (Frazee) One reason is because they are not looking for more activities, EA are looking for people to share the simple pleasure of life – eating, playing, and talking. They will not have time to do life together if they are always running to support church functions.
My favorite points by Frazee is his desire to see multi-generational relationships within the church. He says, “Many church leaders still believe that the most effective grouping of people is centered around the sharing of a common life-stage experience.” (Frazee) I am glad that this mindset is beginning to be questioned, and in some brave churches it is being destroyed. He goes on to state, “The life-stage mind-set is so ingrained that it has a powerful effect both on the youngest members of our community as well as the oldest. As our children grow up, many are not comfortable in relating to people of other ages.” (Frazee)
Could their inability to relate to other age groups be a reason why some leave the church?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Frazee’s book because it reminded me of my own longings of authentic community- an ever-changing game of catch and release.