In a recent Viewpoints section of ToledoFAVS, the question was posed: Why are young adults not attending church as often as they did in the past?
I believe the answer is simple: our churches have failed them. We can do better.
Yesterday I presided at the funeral of a 24-year-old man who died of a drug overdose.
When he was 8 years old I baptized him. I’ll call him Jon. Jon is one of those young adults of whom the question is asked.
When Jon was a child, we claimed him as a beloved child of God. He came to church faithfully with his parents and his brother and sister. He liked church. Then life happened. His parents divorced. Jon, like many teen-agers, got addicted to drugs. He drifted away from the community of Christians who vowed to love and nurture him as a Christian.
It’s too late for Jon to come back to church. However, yesterday the funeral home was filled with dozens of Jons and Amandas who need churches that will be relevant to them. These young adults were covered with tattoos and they were out in the parking lot smoking cigarettes until the last minute before the service started. They were weeping as we laid Jon’s body to rest and I proclaimed the gospel that Jon is eternally a beloved child of God, claimed in baptism and forgiven for his bad choices.
Those young people are ripe for a church that is ready to receive them. This is the question: is there a church out there, that is ready for them? Here are a few questions for the churches that might want to reach out to these young adults.
- Can our pastors and church leaders speak their language? That means, can we shed ourselves of our ancient insider church language and translate the word of God into a relevant language that speaks to someone under 25 who never went to Sunday School as a child, and may never have set foot in a church?
- Can our worship speak to them? Will we offer a worship service with music that sounds like what they listen to on their iPods? Will be let them play the music and help choose the music? Will we spend the money to hire a band leader who will help us choose music that speaks to them? Music is crucial in reaching the generations that we have failed to reach. Our tired praise bands playing music from 1990 will not cut it.
- Will we welcome them with open arms, not judging them for how they look? They will have tattoos and piercings. Does that really matter if they come seeking the grace of God?
I believe the reason so many young adults are not attending church is because our churches our simply out of touch with young adults. This is not rocket science. Go to a funeral, or another situation where young adults are hurting, and ask them if they need hope. They will tell you, they are dying to find a better way.