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15 May 2013

Churches buck the trend to reach 'missing generation' of young adults

Churches buck the trend to reach 'missing generation' of young adults

Photo credit: Fresh Expressions

Churches buck the trend to reach 'missing generation' of young adults   New research, released this week, shows that fresh expressions of church are bucking the trend by reaching and discipling the 'missing generation' of people in their 20s and 30s.

A Church Army and Fresh Expressions report, Authentic faith: fresh expressions of church amongst young adults, reflects the ways in which churches are tackling the fact that only 11 per cent of regular churchgoers are between the ages of 25 and 34. The research discovered that churches with people in their 20s and 30s with no previous church experience will often see their young adults meeting around a dining table rather than in a church building, demonstrating that gathering for a meal helps create community.

It also found that large churches with young adult congregations that gather for a Sunday service alongside midweek groups are effectively reaching middle class, well-educated young adults who previously attended church as children.

Over the past year, Beth Keith, a tutor at Church Army in Sheffield surveyed leaders of parish churches, traditional church plants and fresh expressions of church. Rather than simply tracking large student churches, the aim was to look at churches based in different contexts and reaching young adults from a range of backgrounds.

Beth Keith said: "These types of churches have different personalities, are of different sizes, connect with different kinds of young adults and practise faith differently. Many act as gathering points and so are highly effective in attracting, retaining and discipling Christian young adults for a vocational life of mission. These young adults tend to move on to family-based congregations as they grow up.

"Others exhibit different traits, where eating together is the new Sunday service. For these small communities, access to communal spaces, such as cafes, large vicarages and community houses, can make a crucial difference to their growth and sustainability. Young adults attending these types of churches may struggle to make the leap to more traditional forms of church as they get older. This suggests the determining factor here is not their age or life stage, and that these new forms of church will continue to grow and develop."

The 36-page report Authentic faith: fresh expressions of church amongst young adults recognises these small communities as being a vital part of the Church.