7Sep

What the Next Generation Needs from the Church

Last week our home was filled with people just like it is every Tuesday. The living room was full of laughter, genuine friendships, good food, and authentic prayer and discussion rooted in Scripture.

Our home group is comprised of a somewhat diverse group of people.

  • Expectant parents
  • Parents through adoption
  • Single parents
  • Married without kids (yes, we still exist!)
  • Single people
  • Doctors
  • Carpenters
  • 21ish-32ish year olds

Our living room is filled every week with a demographic largely missing from the evangelical (whatever that means now) church.

We have intentionally kept our group fairly simple, centered around just a few main goals/ideas. Yet our group continues to grow, both in number of attendees and in significance. I am not at all saying that we have figured out how to reach the highly coveted 18-32 demographic (when did the church turn into an advertising agency?) but I am saying that we have accidentally stumbled upon what seems to be working for the next generation.

With that in mind, I’d like to humbly suggest:

What the Next Generation Needs from the Church (3 Things)

 

1.) Encouragement to dream BIG.

  • For most 20-somethings, we’re at a time and place in life where it’s okay to take risks. It’s not too late to change careers or move cities. New skills can be learned dreams can be pursued much easier now than later in life. We need a church that will encourage us to fan those dreams into flame and call us to think deeply about how those dreams connect with the kingdom of God. We need a church that can celebrate with us in the process of figuring out what we want to do and why, not just on the other side when we have more stability and resources to contribute.

2.) Purpose

The extended adolescence of our time has no doubt become a very real issue. Teenagers are turning into futon-crashing 20-somethings that turn into 30-somethings that never quite leave the house. Part of me wonders if this prolonged emergence into adulthood could be shortened if more 20-somethings felt like their life had more purpose. In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul writes,

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

Now obviously Paul did not move immediately from childhood to adulthood but it does seem like there was a more dramatic transition than some 20-somethings are experiencing now. One of my biggest fears as a pastor is how the separation of kids from “big church” coupled with the separation of students into the “youth room/building/get the heck out of my sanctuary” affects college graduates who have always had their own space that’s all about them but then fail to adapt to the real world. 20-somethings need the Church to remind them that their lives have purpose NOW. And that they might be missing out on some of that God-given purpose by mooching off Mom and Dad instead of getting a job and starting their own life.

The most important thing the Church can do to give the next generation purpose is to give them a faith with substance.

When the fog machine smoke from youth group fades and the endless “community” of college ends, has the Church given the next generation a real Christianity? Have we (the Church, not just its leaders) passed on the radically generous, self-sacrificing, compassionate faith of Jesus or have we been peddling a counterfeit faith that screams, “It’s all about YOU!”

3.) Belonging

Your first year in college you’re told over and over again to join a club, get involved, meet new people. It’s solid advice. I’ve given it before. (See: 4 Ways to Start College Right). The goal of joining so many clubs and/or activities should be that eventually you’ll find some like-minded people united around a common goal/interest who genuinely care about you and others. Enter: the Church. The Church has the ultimate thing 20-somethings are seeking…belonging. A place to call home. I lost most of my sense of belonging/home when I was 14 and didn’t really gain it back until just now, at 25. This is due in no small part to my group of like minded-friends (who I met at church), united around a common goal/interest (JESUS) who genuinely care about me and others.

To my 20s-ish friends: What else can the Church do to equip you to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus?

To my older-than-20s-ish friends: What advice do you have for the next generation of Christians?

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4 comments

  1. Steven, I couldn’t agree more – but there is something I’d like to add. One thing I keep noticing in my life and in the life of my friends in this life stage is a longing for cliché milestones. We (stricken!) single people will be happy when we find love. The married of us who want children will be happy when their child arrives. Those of us who are disappointed in the degree/career we worked so hard for will finally be happy when we find a job we like. There is a GLARING lack of contentment in the lives of 20 somethings. We are working hard to find answers and seek joy when really we need to be resting in the goodness that is Jesus. While I think encouraging people to ‘dream big’ is well and good, I doubt for many of us that a spouse, child, or change of career would satisfy the longing within us for more than a little while. At some point, we are going to have to realize that we are exactly where we need to be if we are submitting to Christ’s will and relying on Him to guide us. I believe encouraging a spirit of relinquishment and contentment would be beneficial to this group so that no matter our circumstances, we can say that God is enough. And I imagine its easier for the Lord to direct a submissive heart than one who is clinging to idols of any kind.

    Proverbs 16:9
    The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

    • JB, dead on. That’s actually the primary focus of the sermon this week; bloom where you’re planted. My hope for the Church is to encourage 20-somethings to embrace a holy ambition in every area of their lives while placing equal importance on the elusive quality of contentedness to which you rightly draw attention.

      There’s also something to be said about not being chronically passive in our faith. And I know that’s not what you’re saying and that’s a blog post for another day, but far too many Christians are inactive or filled with fear in the name of being content. I thin that’s more of a religious problem, though. And on the other end of the spectrum are people who need to leave their current position in life/sin, etc. because it’s NOT where God wants them to be. Again, I know this isn’t what you’re saying but it’s all so nuanced to fit into 700 words.

      Personally, I’m grateful for your reminder to drink deeply from the waters of contentedness Jesus provides. As you know, Hayley and I are both the go-getter types and while our ambitious goals may not be rooted in materialism like some, they might be just as destructive as the cry “Gimme more!” if we fail to stop and simply rest in who God is and who he’s made us to be. Last night at home group I shared that this truth you’re reminding us of might be the truth we’ve had to remind ourselves of most so in our 4+ years of marriage.

  2. Yeah, I completely get what you’re saying. Contentment should not mean complacency, and I agree that there may be a thin line between the two. I think this conversation is interesting because of your comment that there are those of us who NEED to be out of a pattern/situation because it isn’t where we are supposed to be. Albeit a topic for another time, I can see how it is very confusing to someone asking themselves, “Where exactly am I supposed to be?” I can think of several scriptures that speak to that question (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 32:8, Jeremiah 29:11) but I guess ultimately our condition is one based on emotions. Are we doing what the Lord would have us to do? Are we submitting ourselves to Him and trusting His will for our lives, even if we can’t see it? We don’t have to feel happy or joyful or sure about our paths to know we are following God’s plan for our lives. Its a tricky spot.

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