Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them

by Ed Stetzer (B & H Publishing Group and LifeWay Research, 2009)

 Bookbrief by UBA Staff

The book is based on a study of 800 surveys (254 Ministry leaders, 271 churched, 272 unchurched) and nearly 100 face-to-face interviews.  The focus is on individuals aged 18 - 29.  Four sub-groups are identified: Always Unchurched, De-churched, Friendly Unchurched, Hostile Unchurched. The bad news is that the younger unchurched believe the church is too critical about lifestyle issues, full of hypocrites, and not necessary for spiritual development.  The good news is that the younger unchurched clearly indicate they are willing to dialogue about Christianity and Jesus.

Four "Markers" or Values of These Young Adults

1.  Community is important to emerging generations.  They believe that life is meant to be experienced together, and they sense a need to be involved in genuine relationships with other.

2.   Depth is next-they strive to be people of deep significance.  They do this because they care about who they are and what they're becoming-"ankle deep" doesn't seem to work for them.  They told us they'd rather be "in over their heads" as opposed to kicking around in the shallow end.  Young adults also expressed an interest in addressing the hard-to-talk-about topics.  They appreciate tough questions and despise pat answers.  Their responses indicate that they like wrestling with difficult things and chewing on challenging ideas.

3.  Responsibility is a strong value because they know that their choices make a difference.  Decisions are everywhere.  Recycle.  Buy or trade fair.  Sponsor a child.  Respond to the crisis in Darfur.  These are the types of opportunities that define this generation.  They've concluded that all of these decisions matter, but what matters most is how they respond.

4.  Connection is the final point of need.  Some people might call this mentoring or intergenerational ministry.  

The bottom line is that they want to learn from those who have already experienced the things that they are about to engage. 


Nine Common Characteristics in Churches that are Reaching Young Adults

1.  Creating Deeper Community.  Churches that are effective at attracting and developing young adults place a high value on moving people in to a healthy small group system.  Young adults are trying to connect and will make a lasting connection wherever they can find belonging.

2.  Making a Difference through Service.  Churches that are transforming young adults value leading people to serve through volunteerism.  More than being pampered, young adults want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and are looking to be a part of an organization where they can make a difference through acts of service.

3.  Experiencing Worship.  Churches that are engaging young adults are providing worship environments that reflect their culture while also revering and reveling God.  More than looking for a good performance, young adults desire to connect with a vertical experience of worship.

4.  Conversing the Content.  Churches that are led by authentic communicators are drawing young adults into the message.  Though their styles vary from topical to exegetical, authentic communicators are true to their own personal style of communication and are usually more conversational than preachy.

5.  Leveraging Technology.  Churches that are reaching young adults are willing to communicate in a language of technology familiar to young adults.  Young adults sense that these churches are welcoming churches that value and understand them, engaging them where they are.

6.  Building Cross-Generational Relationships.  Churches that are linking young adults with older, mature adults are challenging young adults to move on to maturity through friendship, wisdom, and support.  Young adults are drawn to church that believe in them enough to challenge them.

7.  Moving toward Authenticity.  Churches that are engaging young adults are reaching them not only by their excellence but by their honesty.  Young adults are looking for and connecting to churches where they see leaders that are authentic, transparent, and on a learning journey.  

8.  Leading by Transparency.  Churches that are influencing young adults highly value an incarnational approach to ministry and leadership.  This incarnational approach doesn't require revealing one's personal sin list so much as it does require that those in leadership must be willing to express a personal sense of humanity and vulnerability.

9.  Leading by Team.  Increasingly churches reaching young adults seem to be taking a team approach to ministry.  They see ministry not as a solo venture but as team sport-and the broader participation it creates increases of the ministry.


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