One of the most common questions I hear from church leaders is, “What are you doing for 20-somethings in your church?” You can ask a similar question, “What are you doing for teenagers in your church?” and the question just sounds different. The difference, is that first, youth ministry has a plethora of resources and expressions that youth leaders can tap into. Second, ministry to “20-somethings” lacks definition and churches often end up defaulting to familiar youth ministry models and metrics that miss this age period and bring leaders back to that common question again.
Questions often digress to blame. A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear or read about “young people leaving the church” or how “youth ministry has messed up our young people,” or how “liberal colleges,” “gay agendas,” absent parents, the internet, lazy Millennials, or the iPhone has made them “spiritual but not religious.” Blame even leads to abandonment where churches are giving up on the Millennial generation and setting their sights on Generation Z, as a better bet on the future.
A way forward with “20-somethings” isn’t ignorance, nor blame, and definitely not skipping over them. I believe that if we are going to take people ages 18-29 seriously, faith communities must begin with defining the relationship–a DTR.
At one time or another, you’ve probably had to do this. It’s that moment in a significant relationship when you take a moment and ask, “Who are we, together?” “How shall we relate to each other?” “What can I expect of you, and you of me?” and “Where is this thing going?” Relationships that don’t have one (or more) DTRs live in ambiguity and eventually dissolve because no one is clear as how to relate, act, or anticipate. Ambiguous relationship = break-up.
Faith communities need to have a DTR with their 20-somethings before more blame is launched or another program is created. We can spend more time reflecting on this in my YS seminars in Sacramento and Atlanta. In this brief post, I offer three things to ponder: