of pastors minister to emerging adults
night at The Oaks Fellowship in Dallas, 100 young adults
in their late teens, 20s and early 30s meet for their
own brand of church. They sip coffee from the church’s
coffeehouse, The Cup, while a band goes into a fast-paced
song to open the meeting. But there’s no rush
in this relaxed atmosphere. Rather than shaking hands
with two or three people before finding a seat, members
of The Gathering take more than 10 minutes getting to
know newcomers and chatting with friends.
praise and worship fills the room for the next 30 minutes,
but there’s a twist. Stations around the sanctuary
give members a chance to give their offering, take Communion,
write in their journal or read Scripture.
try to make it as spiritual an experience as possible,”
says Justin Lathrop, young adults pastor at The Oaks
Fellowship, “and get multisensory things going
that engage the people and connect them with God.”
is a culmination of several community groups of up to
25 young adults each that meet throughout the week.
A total of 110 people gather in various homes for dinner,
fellowship and Bible study.
churches have a service announcing their small groups,”
Lathrop says of his ministry’s unorthodox approach
to cell groups at the Assemblies of God church. “We
have small groups and then say, ‘Hey, we’d
love for you to come to our service.’ ”
is one of many new ministries tailored to young adults
cropping up in A/G churches across the country. And
Lathrop, 26, is part of a new wave of pastors specifically
hired by churches to minister to them.
to 18to35, a nonpartisan policy organization in Washington,
D.C., 70 million people living in the United States
are in that age bracket. Lathrop says the age group,
known for its quest for deeper spirituality and meaning
in life, represents a tremendous opportunity for church
outreaches. It also represents a segment of the population
that’s been neglected by the church for too long,
church has fittingly had a focus on children and youth,
and most parents picked a church because of that,”
Lathrop says. “But now those children and youth
are no longer children and youth and they’re leaving
church because there’s a gap.”
a real risk of failing to keep this age group in church.
don’t want to be spectators at a church,”
he says. “They are very much aware of the world
and the culture they live in, and they want to give
of their finances, time and energy to be involved in
what God is doing.”
young adults pastor at Central Assembly of God in Springfield,
Mo., agrees. His group, TSE7EN, has a core attendance
of 50 young adults, swelling to 150 during the school
year on Wednesday nights.
adults are looking for, Rumley says, is a sense of relationship
and community. So much so, he believes, that they will
look for something to belong to before looking for something
to believe in.
don’t present ourselves as experts,” says
Rumley, 29. “But we’re saying, ‘Hey,
we’re walking the journey, too, and we’d
love for you to walk with us.’ ”
22, has attended TSE7EN for nearly two years. “We’re
searching for something that takes our life and drives
it,” he says.
why churches must create an environment that allows
young adults to connect with Christ and grow in their
faith. It’s the early stages of the reinvention
of the local church, according to George Barna, directing
leader of The Barna Group, a Christian marketing research
company in Ventura, Calif. Barna believes there will
be different approaches to how people connect with Christ
and other believers as churches change with the culture.
generation responds to very different kinds of stimuli,
relationships and experiences,” Barna told PE
Report. “The first thing Jesus did with every
person He interacted with was ask questions. It was
to model for us. [You need to] understand the people
you want to reach. Take truth to them; don’t expect
them to come to truth.”
people who had been gathering separately in three small
young adult groups came together for worship and prayer
on Saturday nights at Emmanuel Christian Center (Assemblies
of God) in Minneapolis. Now, the Saturday gathering
draws around 175 each week — and the young adults
also are meeting in nine small groups.
want what’s happening on Saturday night to be
the culmination of what’s happening in the individual
groups throughout the week,” says Curt Davis,
young adults pastor at the church. “The biggest
thing that we need to do is afford them opportunities
to serve and have a voice in the whole church, not just
in their particular gathering. If they’re not
allowed that opportunity, they won’t want to be
involved at all.”
work to be done
to The Barna Group, the precarious faith of young adults
in this postmodern age is evident in a variety of statistics:
31 percent of 20-somethings attend church in a typical
week, compared to 42 percent of those in their 30s and
49 percent of those age 40 and older.
22 percent of those ages 25-29 attended church in the
teenagers, more than half of those now in their 20s
attended church each week, while 81 percent attended
a Christian church at some point. That means from high
school graduation to age 25 there is a 42 percent drop
in weekly church attendance and a 58 percent decline
from ages 18-29, representing 8 million 20-somethings.
reading levels are one-third less among 20-somethings
than among older adults.
34 percent of 20-somethings claim to be absolutely committed
to Christianity, compared to 54 percent of adults who