On Needing To Reach the 20’s to 30’s

Consider this video from Ethos (YFC’s 20-30’s wing);

Or this text from their website:

“The number of young adults in church has been declining steadily now for quite some time. In 1985 over half a million of those in their twenties went to church in Britain but by 2005 this figure had more than halved.

Whilst disillusioned with church, this missing generation pursue comfort and happiness like almost nothing else. They have a consumerist outlook yet crave real community. We passionately believe that God is the answer to their deepest needs so we’ve invested time, energy and resources in how we might make a difference.”

They cite this EA report which backs up what they are saying about 20-30’s being a time of extra-grimness for church going.

So things are looking bad in the 20’s to 30’s age group. But the upshot of this is that at least this takes the pressure of the 11-18’s stuff right? I mean, in the last decade or two we needed to reach the 11-18’s as they were vanishing from churches. So I guess we must be reaching those guys with our excellent youth work, it’s just now the 20’s – 30’s are dropping away. Except —and I owe this insight to Nate Morgan Locke because he pointed it out to me— aren’t these 20 or 30’s the people who grew up with the best youth work ever? So why did they flock out of the church when they were 19? Or 22 and out of uni? Surely the 20’s and 30’s generation should be a generation of massive transformation, not a generation of disappearing out of the church slowly? Why are they leaving? I give you two possible answers:

Answer 1: It’s because we stopped providing all the youth stuff for them when they hit 19. Spurned by the lack of residential weekends and pizza as they got jobs —or didn’t as the economy went— they left the church. After all, it had nothing to offer them any more.

Answer 2: The youth work that surrounded them growing up never gave them anything that would keep them in church long term. More precisely, the youth work that surrounded them never showed them the riches, excellencies, majesty, and abundant beauty of Christ and His gospel. Because of this, it was always an uphill struggle keeping them in church and the second someone stopped pushing they were going to roll down the hill into the ditch of hey that was cool when I was younger but I find the whole thing a bit weird now.

You can tell I think answer two is true right? And it totally is, but note how answer one is true as well. Because we’ve not being feeding our young people on Jesus we’ve had to give them something else to keep them in church. And whether that’s been fun and games, good relationships, or the opportunity to become a better person and change the world, those things aren’t enough to hold most people in church. And why should they be? You can find those things elsewhere, maybe not as well, but probably you can get more immediate access to them. You can get fun and games without getting up on a Sunday morning, and you can get good relationships without having to make friends with the weird guy who smells and doesn’t get humour.

I run a boys bible study group, where every week we meet up and eat food and drink Pepsi Max and read the Bible. A few weeks back it was half-term so we went to Nandos and then shot each other at Halo. I think it was fun. But if it’s just fun, then it’s not going to keep anyone involved. Because it’ll be fun for four or five or six years and then they’ll move or grow older and it won’t be fun any more. And you can get better at doing things and be more aware of changing how those things run so that you keep them for seven or eight years or more, but those things will never keep people in church long term. Only coming to know Jesus and seeing him as glorious will. I guess that’s the solution to the problems with the twenties and thirties as well. Show them Christ. Show them how excellent he is. Show them how worthy he is. Show them a Lord and Saviour who humbles Himself to die for them and defeat the great enemy. Call out to them to come to the one who satisfies without failing. Do that and then we may seem the come back to the church.