Where are the young adults?

Young adult ministry is different than other age-level ministries in the church because it encompasses people going through some of the biggest life-changes that they will in life. Young adults are defined as folks aged 18-35. This age range can include high school graduation, going to college, starting a job, getting married, moving away from family, becoming more independent, having children, college/graduate school graduation, getting divorced, purchasing a home, and so on.

Young adults are tricky for churches to understand not simply because of all the change occurring in their life but also because of generational differences. Young adults fall into the end of the Postmodern generation and take up most of the Millennial generation. Young adults grew up with computers and internet in their homes, don’t remember life pre-9/11, and have experienced war for most of their adult lives. They have a delayed adulthood because of the Great Recession and struggle to understand their future. Family, which includes chosen family, friends, and a close support network, is very important to young adults.

Authenticity and questions rather than answers are important to young adults. Rather than focusing on worship style, the church can be providing an authentic and safe place for young adults to ask questions and create community. This often looks very different than a young adult or singles ministry did for our Pioneer or Baby Boomer counter-parts. Young adult ministries now often flourish outside of fellowship hall. Young adults prefer to meet in coffee houses, bars, and homes over Sunday school classrooms.

The adult population of Millennials makes up only 11% of our United Methodist Churches and unlike Gen Xers will not likely come back after marriage and children. If the church is going to reach young adults, it needs to be now, not “when they come back.”

We will address how to tackle young adult ministry in a post later this week, but for now, I want to share WHERE our young adults are. This map shows the population concentration of young adults (ages 25-34) within the confines of our Central Texas Conference.

As you can see, there are a lot of areas with blue and yellow – are the churches in those areas addressing the needs of the young adults living in their community? How does your church treat young adults? How would you suggest a church within our conference to begin a young adult ministry?

3 thoughts on “Where are the young adults?

  1. I believe that if we want to reach young people, the church needs to be diligent in reaching children and youth that will grow into being young people. The type of community described in Where are the young adults? takes much more time than young adults may be willing to give the church while it figures out how to reach them. The children and youth we are ministering to today will then become the disciples that can best reach their peers as young adults.

  2. Nathan, I completely agree that in order to make sure that young adults stay in the church we need to do a better job with capturing them as children and youth. However we cannot ignore the young adults in our communities are not being reached in traditional ways. It will take effort and a lot of out-of-the-box measures for many of our churches, but I believe it is possible and necessary to do the work to meet the needs of all.

  3. Thanks Leanne for doing this!
    First of all, “discipleship” is a hot word lately in the United Methodist church but the churches who are effectively reaching young adults have been at discipling for a while. I personally think that we as a church are on the front-end of understanding that we can no longer just do sermons and worship on Sundays. We are also on the front-end of learning how to implement real discipleship in the midst of our congregations. Young adults are yearning for real connection and discipleship is the foundation for all of that. It seems to me that young adults and young families are less likely to stick to a particular denomination and more likely to stick in a church where they have genuine connections and relationships. But, and I know you starting a sentence with but is grammatically frowned upon, but DISCIPLESHIP is tough, gritty, and SLOW. The good thing is that discipleship is also life-changing. I do not think that you can talk about young adults without talking about discipleship and connection.

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