EGens December 11, 2007

Three convergences go into this post. The first was Willow Creek’s decision to end Axis, something that I both understood and worried about. The second is Robert Wuthnow’s fact-filled and nearly undeniable claim that the generation of 18-30 year olds threatens the livelihood of the future of the church. And now I’ve read an article by Christian Smith. Here is a brief summary and I’m interested in your take, especially if you are in ministry to young adults.

Many today calls this “emergent adulthood” and so I’ve called them “EGens.”
Four social forces:
1. Growth in higher education to an expectation for many if not all.
2. Delay of marriage — average male marries at 27.
3. American and global economy that destabilizes careers.
4. Parents willing to extend financial support much longer than previously.
Manifestations in Christianity and Church:
1. The content and texture of the faith shifts for EGens.
2. The family life is not as stable.
3. EGens may miss church attendance for 15-20 years.
4. EGens participate in sexual serial monogamy — a series of partners.
5. EGens expect financial independence before marriage.
What to do? If our churches and leaders don’t devote their attention to these issues, and there are many more, they may wake up in 15 years in a world so unchurched they may not recognize it.
What can we do?

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  • I think you’ve hit on several of the issues Scot. I mean some by saying the issues are as long as the river runs. I am part of the generation that every pastor in America can’t get enough of. It is weird walking into church knowing that I am part of the least churched generation. I am married so I don’t fit a lot of these but I see the need to figure out new ways to reach these singles. I think 722 at NorthPoint could be an example. They have a separate singles and marriage ministry for young adults. I could talk about this for pages, so I’ll just stop. All I wanted to say was that you have listed a few problems and issues, but I think that there are just so many, but it is a start for sure.

  • The questions “What to do?” and “What can we do?” really are two very different questions. The first asks what do we do in the current situation, the second seems (to me, any way) to imply that the “content and texture of the faith” shifting is a very bad thing.
    I’m not convinced of that, myself. In fact, 4 out of the 5 reasons you list really don’t concern me at all as dangerous to the Church, and I have serious questions about the importance of the other one, in relation to a host of other issues.
    I know you weren’t giving an exhaustive list, by any means, but I believe it is quite possible the Church will come through this time healthier, holistically, because of the generation you speak of in this post.

  • I guess my rection is, welcome to my world. This sounds a lot like the context for ministry and mission we have been facing in europe for a long time. It also convinces me that the recent focus on the missional nature of the church is not a fad but a sign that many in the church are taking this new missionary context for the church seriously. This could be the greatest opportunity the church has faced in 1000 years. We are no longer the establishment here in europe and so we have the chance to unleash the kingdom of God as the subvervise force it was intended to be.
    On the willow creek front it does worry me that the boomer leadership is denying the emergent generation the chance to do what they did and missionally engage with its culture. Isn’t Hybels expecting the folk from axis to do what he refused to do and fit in with their parents practice of church?

  • Hm this is just what it looks like in Denmark. I am not so worried because this is our mission context and we need to find out what does mean to incarnate Jesus in to this world. The people you describe fit very good with the people in our community and that is probably why it doesn’t worry me, because this is our world and has been so for 5-10 years. But is different because we already are a minority…

  • Sue

    Maybe it’s not a bad thing? Maybe the Church as we know it is ending because God is birthing something new? Maybe the Church will forced out onto the streets where it belongs.

  • scot
    i think you raise some important questions. and certainly we must do our best to address serious concerns for future generations. but this is nothing new. generation after generation is “falling into the pit” and the “grass was greener” mentality pervades our thinking so often.
    but what i have discovered in working with EGens is that there are plenty of outliers. as we are told, there will be a remnant. so what if the “church”(es) disingrate??!! God will preserve a remnant. and the Church cannot be destroyed.

  • Scot,
    Willow is ending Axis?! Do you have any more information on that? I used to attend Axis and thought it was definitely one of those things Willow was doing right. Frankly, it was the only reason I attended Willow longer than a sunday. I’m distressed.

  • Chris,
    Long ago it ended.

  • Sua

    I was just thinking about this the other day, actually. I thought the question of how to engage the issues, concerns, anxieties felt by those in this generation. (Though not quite 18-30, I am 38 and have a number of friends who are.) I think one of the most critical things in my faith and in the church for my age group is to acknowledge/be real about these things and allow truth to be poured over them in relationships, teaching and prayer. But, too often we go straight to teaching or intellectualizing of things and we don’t speak the truth of what is in our heads/hearts. What is the angst of the egens generation and are the other generations willing to hear their fears and concerns?

  • Scot, great post.
    I appreciate what a number of people (James, Peter, and Sue) said that perhaps its not a bad thing. God has a way of rebirthing his work in nations in ways we wouldn’t expect.
    Acknowleding that, What should we do? Well one thing is be open to the notion that our grand schemes to reverse this tide may not work, and that’s ok. Its not our gimicks or strategies that birth the church, its the Spirit.
    But how do we deal with this changing situation responsibly? We need to reimagine what a teaching ministry looks like to this crowd, from how we teach them, to what we teach them, and to how they recieve and play into the whole pedagogy process.
    I also believe we need to reintegrate family, trans-generational type ministry forms. Because its mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who will make the biggest discipleship impact on a lot of people. Yet at the same time we need to realize that these 18-30 year olds travel in tribes. I think focuseing more upon what spiritual friendship looks like will deepen Christ in them.
    I think we need to rethink some of our traditional ministry breakdowns, and the questions that have generated them, in order that we have ministries that are relevant and offer real nurture to these EGen’s actual context.
    Lastly, we need to be more economic savvy in the Church. And appreciate that the work force has undergone some very significant changes in today’s world. Here’s where I turn to people like Richard Florida and his concept of the “Creative Class.” These 18-30 year olds live in a global economy where innovation, creativity, and the ability to implement those is what’s consider most valuable to staffers.
    EGen’s want a life encompising vision of their faith, they don’t want a Sunday affair. They want something that can seam together all their experiences, situations, and circumstances with a personal call and mission. And yet something that still sustains mystery, and open-ended questions.
    My two cents…

  • Allie

    Face it. Axis as it was has been dead for quite some time. This isn’t new news, folks. It had been struggling as a ministry, and needed to break from the form it was in and reorganize. It wasn’t because “the boomer leadership is denying the emergent generation the chance to do what they did and missionally engage with their culture”. In its current incarnation, settling in “missional hubs”, it’s now more in that mode than ever, more so than if they had a separate weekly service.
    Besides, integrating the 20-something generation into the life of the entire church is part of Hybels’ vision for intergenerational ministry, something key to the future of the entire church. I will admit, I was sad to see Axis go. However, when I went to their services, I never really felt like I was part of Willow at large, whereas now, I do.
    I suggest, instead of rehashing old news, we deal with what’s really going on: the mass of unchurched 20-somethings searching for something real that they can sink their teeth into–it doesn’t have to cater (or pander) specifically to them. And, in fair disclosure: that’s from a twenty-something. Let’s engage them in honest conversation, and find out where their hearts are. Let’s involve them in small communities, give them meaningful opportunities to serve and make a difference, and be safe people they can take their doubts and questions to. The church will be far better served by doing that, than rehashing a decision that one church made, particularly when outsiders who have only heard part of the story do the rehashing. Sorry this is so long, but I am angry about it. I believe, as I watched what happened at Willow, and talked to people at Willow, that they made the best decision for its context. Let’s just leave it alone.

  • Interesting to hear that Axis had ended because I actually attended a gathering there about a two months ago. And looking at their web site it seems that they had another meeting last Friday.
    I did find a press release from Gene Apple from about a year and a half ago saying that they were stopping the weekly meeting to evaluate the current structure. As Allie hinted at they now have “Missional Hubs” (not sure why they don’t just call them small groups). In its current form they meet monthly to have a teaching, worship, meet and greet time.
    Granted, the last gathering I attended had maybe 100-200 18-30 somethings; however, it is an actual 18-30 something group.
    Tony: Great point about the creative class wanting a life encompassing vision of their faith. People my age are not going to waste time on a vision of life that doesn’t make sense.

  • ryan

    I don’t want this to sound harsh, but I think the boomers have paid only lip service to reaching the EGens. For the most part in churches such as Willow and like Willow the overall ethos of the culture has been overwhelmingly “boomerlicious.” I think the real clash though comes in the fact that boomers are big on control and running things the way they want. Boomers have been reluctantly slow in being willing to hand any of the reigns over to the younger generation, for many reasons both good and bad. But EGens are just not prone to sit around and wait, for reasons both good and bad. Even many EGen Christians I know have checked out of church because they did not see any genuine avenues for them to lead and truly contribute. They were offered tasks to accomplish, but no real ways to have lasting, meaningful impact on the church or ministry as a whole.
    I think many EGens are highly motivated by finding something that is meaningful and that they can truly contribute to. Working at a large church a few years ago I would highlight that all three of the pastors I worked with that were under 30 have left and gone into starting businesses or real estate. Most did so because they felt that leadership roles they had or were offered were patronizing. All this to say that EGens want real opportunities to make an impact and use their ingenuity, if the church does not capitalize on this and provide ways for them to do so, they will simply leave.

  • discokvn

    re 12&13
    none of this is new. it’s just now being recognized the question is will anything change… isn’t this why the EGen’s have started their own churches? isn’t it why Dave went to start Christ Church Wrigleyville (though i realize Dave has since left there, yet in many ways he was the focal point of Axis. yet we’re still talking about Axis shutting down and he’s on to yet another thing…)
    anyway… my two nickles — anybody got a quarter?

  • T

    These are some big questions. At the inner-city ministry I’m a part of, we’ve had similar issues with our youth (which would have substantially different statistics than the ones raised here–likely more disturbing in most cases). Bottom line, for the vast majority of the kids that have gone through our programs, even for years, even those that have made evangelical ‘decisions for Christ’, their Christianity has not survived past high school, if it ever even got that far. Two of the biggest issues we’ve dealt with lately is the invitation we make and what we are structured to achieve. What is the main thing we offer and emphasize, and how? As an evangelical ministry, our gospel has focused for years on forgiveness & justification, usually “achieved” via a decision for Christ through a prayer at various outreach programs and events. While we’ve by no means had a void of relationships or formational goals, our primary goal within those relationships and of our programs has been more evangelical than formational.
    We’re now making the shift to centering our invitation on Jesus himself as a path or “Way” to follow (in this life). E.g.–His ‘way’ will produce good things in this life and the next; He is the savior, and the path, in this life and the next. “Do you want to be fruitful (bringing good to your family, friends, yourself)? Follow Jesus. Become loyal to Jesus. Trust Jesus.” We’re also restructuring our work and programs to make close mentoring relationships a priority between those coming on the Path, and those already on, for mutual growth, for a shared goal. Our ministry goal is shifting from converts to having Christ formed within our kids (and us) through a better gospel invitation and actual relational investment. Our invitation, our goal, and our programs are all changing to get a trust of Jesus within ourselves and the kids that will change them now and the rest of their lives. Greg Ogden’s book, Transforming Discipleship, has a lot of good insight here.

  • Rebecca

    Others have brushed on this idea, but one of the big things which needs to happen for the next generation to get involved in the church is they need to be given responsibility and the ability to help shape what goes on in the church community. This is a generation which is not going to be happy sitting back, passively receiving from church leadership. They see themselves as being capable, smart and having good ideas which they want to have taken seriously. Some of it is the much vaunted sense of entitlement, but the fact of the matter is that this generation does do some things better than their predecesors. Probably one of the best things they can bring to the table is an ability to work cooperatively. This is something neither boomers or gen xers are so good at and if we’re (I’m an xer- 34) willing to be open to our younger peers, I think there’s a lot we can learn from them in this area.
    Also, I think the church has the opportunity to provide something which is hard to come by in the wider world for this generation – a sense of community. We can all get music, teaching, entertainment and such everywhere these days, but if churches can focus more on community and less on their big Sunday productions, this will be something to attract younger people and revitalize the mission of the church.
    I could go on, it’s a huge issue. But I think it is a time of change for the church and that’s a very, very good thing.

  • Provide a strong leadership that lives consistently honorable, moral lives, and speak truth and live vibrant lives.
    I do indeed believe that my generation and the one following will be leaving the church in droves. However, I don’t think this is all bad. We have had “culturally Christian” youth for years, this will help to seperate real faith from “country club Christianity”.
    In my membership group to a large church in Dallas in the past months, most people described themselves as churched, no one was unchurched (their first time ever not having even one), and a good 25 of us considered ourselves de-churched. The church needs to address the de-churched young people. We know what church means and lots of us know theology, but we’re cynical and disillusioned.

  • Great post Scot.
    I think Ryan (#13) is on to something. ‘Boomerlicious?’ Definately. I think this ties into your ‘Divine Embrace 7’ post and the emphasis on experiential spirituality.
    For folks in youth ministry, the social forces that you list are not new. For our euro friends, they are not new.
    The real disconnect between the generations in the US church is that boomers love a great experience, but EGens don’t want to be part of an audience – it’s too institutional and they’d rather put their hands to use in mission instead of be filled with teaching/media/music.
    This isn’t just a difference in preference: these generations view discipleship differently. For Boomers, fill yourself with knowledge with the community(experience) to make spiritual life changes, ushering in the Kingdom. For EGens, act on the call of the Kingdom in missional service (experience) then enjoy community.

  • Greg

    I disagree with many of you that say that the emerging generation has been disempowered by the boomers. Every generation loves to blame the one before it. I am a boomer who used to work with e-gen types in a church setting and I intentionally made the effort to empower, engage and give them meaningful way to engage. However, when given responsibility I found they were disinterested, lazy and apathetic. Some of you say they are intelligent. But I have found that they refuse to read unless forced to for school. Some of you say they want meaningful engagement, but I find that they refuse to serve. Some of you say they aren’t content to sit back and observe and yet I find that is what they seem best at. It appears to me that they are so busy looking for “something important to contribute to” they consistently fail to understand that serving others as Christ served us, is often not very glamorous, or feel very important. As a result my options in ministry were to continue to serve the e-gen and let them sit by as spectators and complain about it, or it was to intentionally hand over responsibility to them. I chose the latter. Over a two-year period I gave more and more responsibility to the e-gens. The program faded into the night. Now I simply invite e-gens into my home, and out for coffee and a movie. One on one, missional living I guess, but it sure doesn’t’ feel important, effective, engaging or even as much fun. I wish I could do better.

  • discokvn

    re: #18 you wrote: “For Boomers, fill yourself with knowledge with the community(experience) to make spiritual life changes, ushering in the Kingdom. For EGens, act on the call of the Kingdom in missional service (experience) then enjoy community.”
    spark me: i think you have it right! but don’t both these get it wrong as all this needs to take place WITHIN community otherwise we miss out on each others strengths, and creativity and miss out on the opportunity to be thankful to God for each other’s gifts and strengths that embrace and encourage the rest of the community (especially in the moments of weakness)…
    sheesh, now i’m out four nickels…

  • Sue

    Tony Stiff said: “I appreciate what a number of people (James, Peter, and Sue) said that perhaps its not a bad thing. God has a way of rebirthing his work in nations in ways we wouldn’t expect. Acknowleding that, What should we do?”
    My response would be: absolutely nothing 🙂 We don’t need to “do” anything. What we do need to learn is how little we know, how little we see, how little vision we have. You can’t move out in an effective way until you have some sort of vision. We think we do, but I suspect we generally don’t. That’s why church buildings are emptying.
    We need to sit, alone, with the Father. Be still and know that I am God. I think that’s the most important thing.

  • Rick

    Tony #10 nailed it.
    The only things I would add would be the importance of keeping in mind the concept of spiritual growth and maturity (as was discussed yesterday on this site);
    and helping those moving to new stages of life stay involved in Christian community.
    Ministries such as Youth Transition are trying to do just that.

  • The reports of the death of axis are greatly exaggerated…I should know, as I lead one of their missional communities. The attractional weekend service is gone, yet axis baptized more people last year than in the previous few combined. Less attendance yes, but i would argue deeper discipleship, more missional focus and greater impact, though there is much to be learned about reaching this gen with God’s love.

  • Greg I think your brush is way to wide and you even sound a tad upset. I think you are missing the point that I made earlier and some others are making here. That point is that the paradigm and ministry philosophy that boomers are dedicated to just does not resonate with EGens. Many in the Egens are not into just “managing” a church model that largely reaches boomers and churched people. Many EGens are looking for expressions that are more communal and holistic in their ministry of the gospel. Just some stuff to think about.

  • First off, history shows us that the size of the church has ebbed and flowed over the two millenia. So we shouldn’t be shocked that we might be entering into a period characterized, as the Pope suggested, by “creative minorities”. It’s not all a bad thing; I’ll trust the Spirit’s still with us.
    But I have to say, for all the good observations of the problem, I am not so sure of any of these suggestions. Most sound like we are selling a program. It’s kind of like the issue with polling. You can take a poll to find out what people believe and let that shape your positions or you can use the poll to figure out why they aren’t hearing the message.
    I kind of look at this similarly. I don’t think the issue is to discover some new way to reach out to the 18-30 year olds, per se. Look, if it is about the newest fad, newest technique, then I think that actually says something about what we really think about Jesus Christ’s ministry. Jesus Christ walked the Earth at a particular point in time and went about introducing Himself to people in a particular way. But I think we are often too quick to trivialize this a something unique to that time versus as revealing of a universal method (which may have different contextualizations) for how God has called humanity back to Him. So I’d suggest on some levels that, yeah look for new ideas, but the new ideas may be really about re-recognizing some old ones and they most certainly won’t be about marketing for marketing’s sake.
    Maybe it’s just me but I am not persuaded that full churches means that people are churched. So why would I want to substitute one reduction of Christianity for a different one? If that generation (and most would put me squarely within it, although I’m just outside it under Scot’s definition in this post) is leaving the church, then I have to say I actually find that a bit more honest than some of their parents. I know plenty of nominal/cultural Christians (and I’d throw into that mix “ideological” Christians, who are more about a system of theology than Christ) within churches. My parents are a great example. At least these kids have some degree of honesty to get up and walk out the door.
    The issue is one of certainty. How do we arrive at certainty about matters of human experience, and in particular, about Christ? For many, they’ve never bothered with that. Authority was the great substitute for doing any of the hard work themselves. This generation seems to have grown up from birth in a culture that has undermined certainty itself. This is what the church needs to be addressing, this very human need. If it can’t answer that — by revealing a method not indoctrinating with the answers, but trusting that God’s truly written the truth on their hearts — then at best all it can offer is an ideology or an institution.

  • Dean

    If there ever was a time and a generation to abandon what is mislabed “the church” this is probably the time.
    EGen’s are more likely to dismiss what boomers call success and construct their own concepts and characteristics for a life of fulfillment and meaning. This doesn’t mean all, most or even many of them will end up getting in right outside of contemporary populist religious bodies. What it does mean is that they probably won’t be any worse off then getting it wrong inside of them and probably will be more ready for the reality of Christ outside the institutions.
    When the shell remains that housed the large crowds that the boomer culture experienced as church in their generation, the reality is that the gospel itself may be re-discovered in the same kinds of places it was when Jesus entered into human history–outside the religious and political hierarchical establishment, in the marketplace and in the dwellings and networks of common and humble people hungry and thirsty for something real.
    Those from the EGen mix that participate in the Christian body where we gather seem to have a hunger for something deep, questioning, real and more probing than the artificial and superficial stuff that still seems to draw and engage much of the boomer mix. I actually think this more candid perspective of a new generation may be just the environment where the good news will germinate and eventually blossom better.

  • Sue

    What Dean said.

  • The issue is not “what can we do to save the church?” but rather “how can we incarnate the gospel in new ways for egens?” The survival of “the church” or her growth is not the focus of missional followers of Christ. If the church as we know it today is dominated by one generation, then the next generation will bring new forms, new wineskins, about. Actually, that’s what the emerging/missional thing is all about. While we do need to be aware of all the data and trends that inform new expressions of faith communities, we should not act as though the “survival of the church” depends on any one generation.

  • Thank you for this thought provoking post. I really benefit from reading all the responses.
    We all have our perspective as we look at these issues.
    Mine is as a mother of 3 sons ages 19, 15 & 13. My simple desire for them and their friends is to have a vital and real relationship with Jesus. One where He is in the driver’s seat.
    As I volunteer in a local church I want us to offer experiences that are real, relevant and meaningful to the group of people you refer to as EGen-ers. Not because I want to continue some institution called the local church, but because I want reach out to people in this age group in our community. I want my own sons and others to have avenues available to them to help them grow in their faith. As said by many above, I’m less concerned about the local church institution and more concerned about the people.
    God will work as He chooses to bring people to Himself and we want to see what He is doing and join Him. If a different approach is the one for our specific time and place – great. But I don’t know that there is just one way to do it. Different things work for different people in different contexts. I’m sure we can learn from flourishing ministries, but I think there is a danger in the whole almost “marketing techniques” used so frequently in churches today.
    No matter what the exact method or structure, it always seems to boil down to personal involvement with individuals. Listening, caring, living out Christ among people. Inviting them into your home, social activities and lives. Them seeing the struggles and victories of Christ in you and you being there for them.

  • One issue to be raised it the consumerism and debt that has a stranglehold on my generation. Most young adult’s debt to income ratio is outrageous. We have seen a real decline in tithing across many churches and ministries. How can you tithe if you cannot pay your mortgage? Many of our pastors saw this coming and have already prepared for the reality of being bi-vocational in the future. Of course this too would have large ramifications if many of these pastors were to work a non-clergy full-time job and pastor a church. I think that these sub-prime mortgages are just the first of things to come.

  • Dianne P

    To point 2 in the first group and point 4 in the second… I would like to see someone thoughtfully address the issue of the gap of many years between age at sexual maturity and age at marriage. Assuming sexual maturity between age 10 and 15 (and often earlier) and marriage between 25 and 30, there is anywhere between 10 and 20 years of the strongest hormonal influence on sexuality – yet churches still preach celibacy with a straight face to e-gens who mostly turn away. I see 4 options for e-gens –
    1) remain celibate for 1 to 2 decades of the most sexually intense time of their lives
    2)marry at a much earlier age than their contemporaries
    3)stay away from church until married and/or w/ children
    4)as mentioned previously here, attend church and compartmentalize that part of their life and keep it *private*
    A few choose #1, but let’s be honest, most do not. Statistically, it’s clear that many do not choose #2, except for those at seminary or Christian colleges. So what about all the others? Do ministry leaders assume that many e-gens can or will be convinced to join group #1? How? By simply preaching “just say no”? How can we take a bible that forbids sex outside of marriage, that was written in a time where there was little or no time that passed between sexual maturity and marriage, and apply it to today’s situation? I see this as a significant challenge in ministering to e-gens, and I don’t see it discussed much.

  • Scott M

    Yes, Dianne. Lauren Winner is actually one who tackles that head-on. And as someone who was not formatively shaped by anything vaguely like a Christian sexual ethic, I found her book, “Real Sex,” extraordinarily helpful. It revolves around the idea that we lost sight of reality when we turned chastity into a purely individual and private practice of simply not having sex. Rather, chastity is and must be a communal discipline and practice in which all appropriately engage — as a community. The ancient Church stood out in pagan times as a community of remarkable sexual restraint. And they did so together, not privately and individually. A sexual ethic is always the ethic of a community more than it is individual. So it’s not at all surprising that so few live a sexual ethic no different than our culture. On this matter, there is no other integrated, cross-boundary culture. Our churches mostly ignore it other than to exhort particular behaviors. The behavior is just the bit of the iceberg you can see.

  • Diane, I think you make a really good point about the fact that since this generation is marrying later, this would mean a decade of so of celibacy at their most sexually intense time of life. This is indeed a real concern.
    I found Scott’s words on this of interest and plan to read the book he mentions. Because, as I look at the word, I can’t read it any other way than that God wants sex for marriage and exclusive. I keep thinking about that verse that says God’s ways are higher than our ways and don’t always make sense to us. It is definitely a most challenging situation.
    This is a situation that I especially can relate to because I ended up a single adult for several years. Even though I wasn’t in my 20s at that time it was still an issue given our current culture and my own desires. But I know in my heart that God honors obedience.

  • Yes, and since the adolescent latency period has been extended many young adults are too immature to even handle relationships, let alone many premarital sexual relationships. This only adds to the weight in value for abstaining before marriage.

  • Jim Rolf

    Greg (#9),
    Wow. I worked with EGens for 4 years and had the opposite response than you apparently have had. Sure, there was a certain segment who didn’t do much. There’s also a large segment of boomers who sit on their a$$ as well. The majority of our EGens either served in various other parts of the church or served others outside of our local church as well.They were reading all the time. In fact, I occaisionally wondered when they were gong to quit reading and start putting into practice the things they were reading about. I firmly believe that responsibility should be wedded with the freedom to lead and make decisions. the more we did that, the more our EGens responded. We sent mission teams to Africa, China, and Mexico. We served the elderly in our church. eGens started and lead small groups for their peers. EGens designed and led creative worship experieces for the rest of the church. The bottom line is that my experience is the polar opposite off what you seem to be describing.
    I have no idea why our experiences were so different, but I want to offer another data point for ministry with EGens.

  • Abby

    I appreciate so much of what I have read here, especially those who have emphasized community. As a 24 year old “egen” I would say that the conversation has to be about values/principles and not programming. We can tell One of things my friends and I hate the most is being grouped together as if we’re all the same. We have been raised in an era that teaches we are all different and our beliefs no matter what they are, are valid. If going to church means ascribing to someone elses beliefs and denying the validity of so many others’ experiences then we are not interested. As much as we want to be respected as individuals, we feel alienated, we want community, we want to be informed and challenged, we want to have opportunities to engage in society and have a purpose to our actions, we want our beliefs to be grounded in something that transcends the ideals of the generation before us. I think placing emphasis back upon the history of the church and the creeds is helpful here, we want genuine conversations on how we can honor Christ without disengaging from the culture around us. we want values not rules, conversation not preaching. More of a tangent than helpful insight or creative ideas, but thats my two cents.

  • Yes, to much of what Smith and Wuthnow write. But as mentioned in one post the journey of the people of God ebbs and flows. Prophets come to remind the culture and the forms of religion of the reality of the Creator and of the over-arching Story . . . will they be listened to? Each person, each family, each generation, each nation makes decisions which impact many others.
    Getting back to Christian Smith, in the American context the children are embracing the faith of their parents. They are just more upfront about “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Yes, radical dualistic alternatives maybe be offered by various successful churches/ministries, but the question is whether children not only hear the Word in the house, but in some way more importantly are apprenticed in the Word in the home leading to Christ-centered, Spirit-led secondary vocations. Adult ministries are called to apprentice parents as they draw close to God leading to transformed lives, Chistian community, witness in the workplace, nurturing of families in a wholistic faith . . .
    Starting young provides the foundation for addressing the concerns and continuing the converation through middle school, high school, and college. As a 30-something with 3 kids, I confess it’s a refiners fire and where ‘it’ wasn’t started young with me its time to address ‘it’ now. We are all being reshaped more into ‘the image of God’ we were intended to be through the process.
    Gotta go. Lord willing, more on being a Light among collegians/young adults.

  • 20s-30s have ZERO brand loyalty. They don’t buy shell gasoline because they have a shell card, they buy Kangaroo gas or whatever is the cheapest around the corner even if they have never heard about it before.
    Same is true of church – they are not as a whole as concerned about “the truth” and “getting it right” as their parents were. They want experience. They want to make a difference. If they don’t have something to get plugged into where they can serve their community and the church they will go some place where they can. Older generations saw the gospel as a correct understanding = you are okay. To the 20-30s the gospel has to result in action/response.
    What to do – pair up the strengths of the 20s-30s (the desire for experience/relationship with God) with the strengths of the older generation and you end up with a group of young people just as passionate but now better informed to make an even bigger difference and a group of older people who still know just as much but maybe desire God just that more more.