Building a Young Church: Part Two Some Data

The conversation about millennials and their spirituality continues to thrive, just as it has for the preceding generations. Over at Association of Religion Data Archives, they have posted a research backed study about some key characteristics of churches that reach young adults.

Here are the Seven Characteristics they’ve listed:

Young churches, young people: Congregations organized in the past decade were three times as likely to have a significant number of young adults as congregations organized before 1976. “One of the most effective ways to reach young adults is to launch new congregations,” Sahlin said.

The KISS principle: Keep it spiritual, stupid: Congregations reporting high levels of spiritual vitality were three times as likely to have significant numbers of young adults as congregations with low spiritual vitality. “What they are looking for is something that touches them,” Sahlin said of young adults. “They’re looking for something that connects to the divine in a palpable way.”

Eat, pray, read the Bible: Congregations that reported a lot of emphasis on spiritual practices such as prayer and scripture reading were five times more likely than congregations that put no emphasis on such practices to have large numbers of young adults in the pews. “It appears that congregations that teach spiritual practices are much more attractive to young adults,” Sahlin and Roozen reported.

Keeping up with new technology: Congregations that reported multiples uses of technology such as social media and websites were twice as likely to have a significant percentage of young adults as those that reported marginal use.

Electric guitars rock: Congregations that used electric guitars and overhead projectors in their worship often or always were about twice as likely as congregations who never used them to have significant young adult participation.

Gender balance: While women outnumber men in most congregations, the study found the more men there were in a congregation the more likely it was to attract young adults.

Promoting young adult ministry: Congregations that placed a lot of emphasis on young adult activities and programs were more likely to attract young women and men.

 

This list isn’t surprising, in fact, it is what should be expected. There are a host of reasons that some churches reach young adults more effectively than others and this list is a good place to start.

As we talked about in part one of our series, after a church has answered some basic questions about whether they can, should, or desire to reach young adults (we call this confronting the brutal facts conversations) this list is a helpful second step.

How are you doing in reflecting the characteristics of this list? What does your community do to utilize these marks, and perhaps some others, to aid in reaching young adults and building a young church?

We’ll be exploring some of these categories more deeply in the coming weeks. There are some provoking points about, and not just the one about technology. How our churches example gender equality (even for the most complementarian of churches) can speak volumes for our approach and theological grounding.

So, what do you think of this list? Is it accurate? Is it helpful? What should be added?