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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories


New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults

By Isaac Olivarez (7/18/04)

Each Sunday 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.

Corporate 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.

“We 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.”

The service 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.

“Most 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.’ ”

The Gathering 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.

According 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, he says.

“The 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.”

Lathrop sees a real risk of failing to keep this age group in church.

“They 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.”

Dave Rumley, 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.

What young 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.

“We 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.’ ”

Joel Woodward, 22, has attended TSE7EN for nearly two years. “We’re searching for something that takes our life and drives it,” he says.

Which is 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.

“Each 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.”

In January, 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.

“We 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.”

More work to be done

According to The Barna Group, the precarious faith of young adults in this postmodern age is evident in a variety of statistics:

• Only 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.

• Just 22 percent of those ages 25-29 attended church in the past week.

• As 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.

• Bible reading levels are one-third less among 20-somethings than among older adults.

• Only 34 percent of 20-somethings claim to be absolutely committed to Christianity, compared to 54 percent of adults who are older.


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