What Do Young People Want From a Church?

young

Well?

Today’s an open forum kind of a day. An “open mic night” at BeDeviant.com, if you will.

If it’s one thing that’s perpetually on my mind, it’s asking the question, “what does your average 20-something want from a local church?”

I have some ideas. But I want to hear yours.

Ready? Go.

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28 Responses to “What Do Young People Want From a Church?”

  1. New Lutheran October 12, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    I mainly look for theological compatibility, openness, community, challenging teachings, congregational liveliness, creativity, and fresh, contemporary worship music.

    But, I don't think I'm an “average” 20-something. :)

  2. Justin Wise October 12, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    You mentioned theological compatibility as the first item in your list. Is that order of importance? In other words, what if you found incredible community but were only 50/50 on theological compatibility?

  3. mikefili October 12, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    My entire ministry is to 20-somethings (students at the University of Michigan), so I guess I could at least tell you what the students on my campus seem to want.

    They seem to want to encounter a person or community that actually loves them for who they are rather than what they can give them. They want someone who actually believes something and lives for something that is real and transcendent.

    They want to know someone who seems to not be enslaved and in captivity to the same things that the rest of the world is. Good thing the Church offers all that stuff :-)

  4. Chad October 12, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    As a 20-something single, I sometimes feel as if the Church has forgotten about me, or worse, is just ignoring me.
    From preschool all the way through college there are more programs and ministries and retreats and classes and studies and… than you could possibly shake your Teen Study Bible at. But once you get out of college I challenge you to find a community designed for you in more than a couple churches. Unless of course you're married, then the Church will start to pay attention to you again.
    There is a large, and growing, population of single, working, 20-something young adults out there that the church seems to either not realize exists, or is purposely ignoring because they don't know what do with them (besides set them up on a blind date with this “really nice young guy/girl I know”).

  5. Eric Holmer October 12, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    A community that looks different on the outside and inside from the rest of the surrounding culture but not in terms of a “GAP (God Answers Prayer)” T-Shirt or a group of couples that talks primarily about their kids soccer tournaments. A community that is open to being transformed by God's love and open to being honest with eachother throughout that process.

    I think they might be looking for a place that values what they bring to the table in such a way that it's natural to get involved because their gifts/talents are both needed AND desired as part of the body of Christ.

    I can understand where Chad is coming from though. Our church recently had its annual outdoor festival and even as a married couple we felt out of place without kids at our side since the whole event seemed to be geared primarily towards them. I wouldn't blame singles from wanting to stay miles away from an event like that but I also understand the importance of ministering to growing families.

  6. newlutheran October 12, 2009 at 11:15 am #

    I'd say that's rough order of importance for me.

    For the theology, I think it depends on if the issues I have with it are what I would consider “primary doctrine”. As an example, being new to the Lutheran church, I'm still not sure how I feel about infant baptism, but I don't consider the age of baptism central to Christian theology. However, I've visited some churches that met all my requirements but seemed to glaze over or completely ignore our need for redemption. I really can't overlook something like that.

  7. Justin Wise October 12, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    Chad my bro – how could a church reach out to a you and your friends? What would that look like in an ideal situation?

  8. Justin Wise October 12, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    Countercultural?

  9. Chad October 12, 2009 at 12:36 pm #

    First of all, I guess, just acknowledge that I'm there. Like I said, the main problem seems to be that the church is ignoring us. I would say one of the primary reasons I'm at the church I attend is because we have a great 20-somethings singles Bible study. (It is actually THE differentiating reason between this church and a nearby church of the denomination I grew up in). But the fact that of the 12 or so people that regularly attend our study, there are around 8 different churches represented, tells me that not many churches are offering such a group. So, recognize we're there and get us involved in community with each other – just not a community focused on pairing us off.

    Second, get us involved. Get us involved in the activity and workings of the whole church, not just our group. I'm guessing that in general, we probably actually have more time and energy on our hands than parents and married couples, so use us. Actively recruit us to serve in and run various aspects of the church.

    Also get us involved in non-age-based and non-marital-status-based community, so we can connect with the larger church. I think this is the second step to take after a church has established a community based on our age and singleness. I think it's easy for a church to say “Ok, so we created this group for you, now go do your thing” and then start ignoring us again. Well, yes you've now created a community for us, but now we just feel collectively segregated and ignored instead of individually segregated and ignored.

    So I guess I would say the big things we're looking for are community and involvement. We want to feel like we're part of smaller community and the larger church – to feel that we're welcomed and essential members of the church.

  10. Chad October 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    Also, here's an interesting article from Christianity Today that relates to this topic.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/octobe

  11. New Lutheran October 12, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

    YES.

  12. Chad October 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm #

    I agree, I can find a church that's meets all my other requirements, but if they're not teaching what I believe the Bible teaches, especially on the “primary doctrine” as you put it, it will all be lost.

  13. Ryan October 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    As a young convert to the Catholic Church, the main thing I was looking for was an encounter with Jesus Himself, which I found in the scriptures and in the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. I wanted the truth about what the early Christians did, believed, behaved. I feel like it was incredibly counter cultural then, and authentic Catholicism still remains incredibly counter-cultural.
    Basically, the Catholic Church offered me the faith of history, the faith of the early Christians, I feel the faith of the Scriptures, all in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    So to sum it up: what draws me to the Church? Jesus, the relentless insistance of the truth of the Word, the Sacraments (especially the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist), the liturgy, the ancient way of doing things, the timelessness of it all, and again, truth.

    Unique perspective, I'm sure.

  14. Mac Attack October 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    I am 21 years old. Now, as I have found from speaking to many of my friends and through crazy personal experiences, young people desire more of a personal touch. Most of the people I talk to have struggles rooted in the past pains of important, broken relationships. Relationship is the basis of knowing God, and living a life like Jesus on this earth. I believe the practical teachings of building relationships with people and with God will increase the growth in the church. Practicality is key. I feel very unfulfilled when I walk into a church, and hear the words, “Love God and love people,” without any practicality behind it. Love and relationship are learned practices, not just concepts. Many people growing up haven't had the privilege of learning them to a great extent. My mentor defines it as the practice of making the person we are spending time with feel as if they are the only one in the room. Also, I would love to see the church really emphasize the accessibility of knowing God as a friend. So many people are schooled in knowing that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, but as I have seen it, not very many people approach the Holy Spirit walking with them as a friend always. Now these are things I would love to see, but I'm not sure I can speak for a whole younger generation.

    If there are three words to sum up my statements, here they are: relationship, practicality and accessibility.

  15. katie14 October 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    something to keep me interested. nothing is wrong with the “older version” of praising god but something new and fresh to really get the message out!

  16. Justin Wise October 13, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    What would that “interesting” thing be? Judging from your comment, you're not talking about something gimmicky or kitschy, but something “fresh”? Is that fair?

  17. Justin Wise October 13, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    “The practice of making the person we are spending time with feel as if they are the only one in the room.” Love that. Great comment.

  18. Justin Wise October 13, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    I was just reading the other day about the resurgence of young people into liturgical settings. 8-years-old or 80, all people on the same page in a worshiping environment. Very powerful.

  19. Justin Wise October 13, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    “Thy will be done.” AMEN.

  20. Sam Mahlstadt October 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    I think above all, whether they know it or not (they may not agree) the average 20 something wants genuine community. Programmed community is a major turnoff. In genuine community, we can live out the Gospel, which many churches lack. In genuine community, we join in living out the Kingdom of God on earth. Everything can be traced back to genuine community. So, genuine community. That's my answer. Genuine community genuine community genuine community. :)

  21. lynessa May 3, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    Our church needs younger adults and their families to attend. How can I get them to come and stay? What other advice do you have to start a young adult fellowship night. Cause we don't have one right now

  22. lynessa May 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    How do we get the younger adults and their families to come and stay in the church? Need young adult group ideas as well

  23. Jason May 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I think that the main thing that churches need to keep in mind is where people are at developmentally as '20 somethings.' Right now, the most important thing young adults are engaged in is figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world. The primary way that people figure those sorts of things out is through interaction with others who are either similar to them, or more preferably, people who are different from them.

    I think that one of the great mistakes churches make when they try to reach young adults is that they think that young adults are unified by a style of worship, fashion, or preaching. The truth is that there is no such monolithic style for young adults. 18-30 is probably the most chaotic and 'in-flux' you can be in your life. What unifies is the fact that they aren't alike! It will be the places that allow for the formation of an authentic person that will be the places that get young adults to stay.

    Those places look like a caring community. They look like places where you can engage ideas, people, issues–as you become yourself. All of those things are means to the end of person making. At the end of the day i think that the role of young adult pastor will be a mix of personal/spiritual formation, ministry placement, and community organizer.

  24. lynessa May 3, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Our church needs younger adults and their families to attend. How can I get them to come and stay? What other advice do you have to start a young adult fellowship night. Cause we don't have one right now

  25. lynessa May 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    How do we get the younger adults and their families to come and stay in the church? Need young adult group ideas as well

  26. Jason May 3, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    I think that the main thing that churches need to keep in mind is where people are at developmentally as '20 somethings.' Right now, the most important thing young adults are engaged in is figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world. The primary way that people figure those sorts of things out is through interaction with others who are either similar to them, or more preferably, people who are different from them.

    I think that one of the great mistakes churches make when they try to reach young adults is that they think that young adults are unified by a style of worship, fashion, or preaching. The truth is that there is no such monolithic style for young adults. 18-30 is probably the most chaotic and 'in-flux' you can be in your life. What unifies is the fact that they aren't alike! It will be the places that allow for the formation of an authentic person that will be the places that get young adults to stay.

    Those places look like a caring community. They look like places where you can engage ideas, people, issues–as you become yourself. All of those things are means to the end of person making. At the end of the day i think that the role of young adult pastor will be a mix of personal/spiritual formation, ministry placement, and community organizer.

  27. Bella August 16, 2010 at 1:42 am #

    As a young person who has grown up in the church and seen the good, the bad and the ugly, I want nothing from a church. I never want to go to church again. I simply want to live in this world like Jesus did, and have Christian friends like the Christians in Acts did. No institution, no politics, no rites and religion. That would be a journey of faith Jesus would be proud of.

  28. Justin Wise August 16, 2010 at 3:39 am #

    Bella … I hear your frustration. You make a pretty strong statement, “I never want to go to church again.” What would a perfect church look like for you? One that you would want to be a part of?