Some sociologists have referred to young adults as the paradoxical generation because of the competing narratives and tensions that exist within them. One such paradox is the high value placed on individualism on one hand versus the desire to find themselves in community on the other. A further paradox, relevant to this conversation, is the strong attraction of this generation to consumerism (see The World According to Y by Rebecca Huntley), which coincides with a powerful drive to participate, contribute and create. 

This is a conversation about participation, and it takes place in the games room, where everyone gets to play.

In recent years, the way we all interact with media has significantly changed. Technological advances in the 20th century meant that information could be broadcast from one source to millions of people via radio and television. It was the age of mass media. Today, young adults do engage with information in this way to some extent, but social media plays a more significant part in their lives, and it operates in a completely different way to mass media. Through social media, users don’t just consume information but interact with it and create content themselves (see Meet Generation Z, in which James Emery White explains that one of the facets of the wifi enabled’ generation is a deeply held desire to dream and cocreate).

The challenge is that, traditionally, our church services have tended to be based on a mass-media model. Whilst there are participative elements, such as communion and sung worship, most of our communication from the front is done from a broadcast mindset. Based on the cultural trends we have described, it is worth giving significant thought to how we increase participation in our meetings. Whilst we are not suggesting that church members vote to influence the way a sermon is delivered, we must consider how we can make all that we do more interactive.

Furthermore, if young adults have a deep desire to play a part, how do we empower this generation to find a place in serving the mission of the church in a way that uses and develops their gifts? Churches that attract and thrive amongst this age group do two further things in this area: first, if they choose to have groups specifically for this age group (they find ways to allow them to be self-led and encourage indigenous leaders); second, they deliberately have used young adults in visible roles, so that others in this age group can see that there are people like them in that community and with an opportunity to serve.