This article is part of our Is the missing generation’ still missing?” report to find out more click here.

I graduated last year, albeit via email thanks to the pandemic, as part of the class of 2020. Those three incredible years at University were much shorter, but oh-so much sweeter, than I could have imagined.

We didn’t know back in March, when the university shut its doors, that our second term of final year would in fact be our last. And so, we submitted our last assignments, sat our last exams and finished our degrees all at a distance. Then summer passed by and September rolled around and I watched on as my peers moved home, moved house and started new jobs in new cities. In the space of just a few months, friends became teachers, engineers, doctors, civil servants, social workers, key workers, church interns and charity workers. And I couldn’t be prouder of their transition to graduate life, particularly in these circumstances.

A church to call home

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For some, starting a new season means looking for a new church community. This situation is not exclusive to students and new graduates, but it’s highly likely for many in their 20s and 30s as life is often more transient in these years.

But how does church hunting work when walking into a room now looks like logging onto Zoom? What does it mean when getting closer to a new community can only happen from two metres away? And how does a church tell if someone new joined that week from the number on a YouTube analytics screen?

It’s easy to feel disheartened. But I’d like to share a few stories from friends across the country of what it’s really been like to find a church in this season to encourage you. These are the stories of what’s going on across the UK as churches have stepped up and out to ensure that young adults have new places to call home not just for when the pandemic is over, but for now also. 

Charlie and Boo 

Charlie and Boo recently got engaged and Boo has a place to do a PhD at the University of Glasgow after the wedding, so Charlie has moved there ahead of Boo for a new job. They began asking friends, family, and googling churches, until their searches led them to a new church plant. After a couple of conversations online with the pastor, Charlie and Boo decided this was the church for them, so looked for a flat in the area. Charlie told me that members of the church offered to look at the flat as lockdown meant that we couldn’t do it ourselves.” They even offered tables, a TV, a hoover, and various bits of furniture, all before they’d even moved from Bradford.

Since moving, people in the church have offered to go on walks to show them the local area, and Charlie even formed a support bubble with the pastor’s family when first moving without Boo. I love how Charlie and Boo described the warm welcome they’ve received despite lockdown: we thought we were moving into an area of deprivation so that we could serve the local community and church, but we’ve been so blessed to find that the local community wanted to serve us.”

Lucia

Lucia began a graduate teaching scheme in the summer in Northampton, where she knew no one before moving. After googling local churches, she found one that she was almost certain would become her home, but she didn’t want to randomly join the Zoom service they were offering. Instead, she visited a church with an in-person service and surprisingly, Lucia loved it. She enjoyed how diverse the community was, with so many different cultures represented”, and cried for a solid hour afterwards due to the joy of being at a church again.

Unfortunately, Lucia only went to a few services before the church moved online and Lucia wasn’t keen to join on Zoom yet. She’s since moved back to her parents but has begun tithing to the church and assures me that she’ll be right there, worshipping, praying and probably crying again” whenever they meet in person because it definitely feels like my home church in Northampton.”

Lizzie

When Lizzie moved to London this summer, she started working as an intern for a new church plant, so didn’t have to hunt for a church like others have. Joining a church, let alone launching a new church, in the middle of a pandemic, certainly has its challenges and Lizzie still finds it difficult living and working with people she barely knows. Even though she’s been in London for six months, lockdown has restricted opportunities to build deep friendships. But despite all of this, Lizzie has been able to build good relationships with other staff who have made efforts to introduce her to new people. As Lizzie’s friend, I am amazed at her perseverance. Although her job looks nothing like she expected before moving, I’ve watched Lizzie grow in new ways and I’m grateful for a church who have allowed her to do that, something that Lizzie herself reflected had been a real blessing.

Tom and Jo 

Tom and Jo met through their church in Exeter, got married in the building, and were both on the staff team there. So, when they moved for new jobs a few months ago, this was their first opportunity to choose a church together. Like Boo and Charlie, they picked a church before finding a place to live. They watched a livestream which felt like a low risk” way to find out more, and after a month of joining the livestream, they started to wonder, how do you tell someone you’re joining a church from a distance?” But they filled in a connect form and the next morning the pastor emailed to see if they had any questions. He said they’d usually love to have them round for dinner, but restrictions obviously prevented that. Instead, he said that him and his wife would like to go for a one-to-one walk with each of them if they’d like. For Jo and Tom, this was an excellent way to get to know people better, and they’ve since been on walks with others from the church to help them feel part of the community despite lockdown.

Each of these stories describes a different journey to finding a new church home, but it’s a journey that many young adults are taking in this season. Some have been blessed by a warm welcome and support as they’ve moved to a new city. Others have struggled to make friends and engage meaningfully with church online. Ultimately, 20s and 30s are looking for a place to be present, a way to participate, a space to connect and a community to belong to. So, as a church leader or member of a church community, how could you offer that to them? 

Many of these actions I’ve described haven’t been particularly revolutionary but I can assure you, they have made an incredible difference.

Is the ‘missing generation’ still missing?

Is the ‘missing generation’ still missing?

A brand new resource for every church to be encouraged and to facilitate a conversation around making young adult disciples in this season Find out more