The past few years it has been popular in Christian literature to try and understand why young adults are not part of the Church. Books like Soul Searching, Almost Christian, UnChristian, Next Christians, You Lost Me, and Sticky Faith have all been great reads with very good observations. I would recommend any or all of them to you. Not only in traditional print/e-reader format but also in the "blogosphere" many are sharing why they think young adults are leaving the church. Most recently Chris Piatt at Red Letter Christians (a blog site headed by American Baptist theologian/professor/author Toni Campolo) writes there are seven reasons in his opinion why young adults are leaving the church. Commenting on Piatt's thoughts, popular blogger/writer/speaker Rachel Held Evans, has listed 15 reasons why she has left the local church but still feels part of the "big 'C' Church."
These books and blogs and others like them are usually full of statistics about how few young adults are in church these days. It is true there are alarmingly few of us in the pews each week, so much so I think I have learned to better relate with people 20+ years older than myself than I do with my peers. See I am in the minority, I am a thirty year old who not only attends a church service every week, I work for a Society that works with churches in a Midwest Region. I work with a number of churches in a variety of settings. Some are big, some are small. Some are in urban areas, most are in rural areas. A few are affluent, most struggle financially. The churches I serve even speak eight different languages. But the one thing they all have in common is what has been called elsewhere as the "graying of the church."
If you want to better understand why young adults are leaving the church, I encourage you to read one of the books or blogs above. I would like to take a moment and simply list a few reasons why I have bucked the trend and have chosen to not only remain in church but work hard to make churches, pastors, and congregations healthier.
- Community: Church for me is like a massive family reunion every week. Eugene Peterson said it best, church is a place of, "broken, hobbled, crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women." (Practice Resurrection, 27) It is a place where real people, come to a real place, to meet a real God, to have real needs met, and in turn to meet the very real needs of others both inside the building and outside.
- It is better to "reform" from within than to quit and cast judgement from afar: Martin Luther probably never meant to start the Reformation. At first he tried desperately to make change as a Catholic priest before being pushed out completely. While I don't plan on being a revolutionary of any status, I do plan on acting as my Old Testament prof once called, "the prophetic voice in the wilderness." I have been called to these people, I don't get to choose them. The church for all her faults is filled God's people and I am one of them. I will walk in the way, the truth, and the life and encourage others to do the same.
- It is intellectually and spiritually challenging: I have been more spiritually challenged, more theologically stretched, and more intellectually stimulated in the Church than anywhere else. Authors like Peterson, McKnight, N.T. Wright, McLaren, Christopher Wright, Capon, Gil Baile, Pannenberg, Olson, Karl Barth, Roushenbush, Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis, Bartholomew, Merton, and a many, many others have all challenged me. Old church ladies, little Sunday School kids, impulsive teens, widows, orphans, cranky lawyers, jaded doctors, retired military, and thousand other individuals have all had a hand in growing me. I met them all in Church.
- Questions can be scary, but at least I can ask them: I share this one with a slight wink. Many, many young adults feel their questions are unwelcome. Questions that are most pressing in our demographic like homosexual equality, a decade old war, health care, creation care and evolution, Biblical "authority" and immigration issues shape our daily discussions with one another. In many places these questions are dismissed as either misguided or just ignorant. "just read the bible like a textbook and believe what we tell you to believe" is the answer many have received as answers to their questions. I know this happens and I hope to never give such a response because it's not only academically wrong it shows they are more worried about status quo than actual thought processes. For the most part this has not been my experience. I have been blessed with good pastors, good friends, and good fellow congregants who have allowed me to wonder through these questions. So I acknowledge this as a struggle for many, I have been lucky to have been surrounded by fellow wanderers who are trying to be "Shaped by the Story" of Scripture.
"Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana"
Texas can handle itself; I want to be for the Church.