Kelcy Steele ~ Preaching to Young Adults in the Midst of a Paradigm Shift

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“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.”  Proverbs 20:29

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.” Psalms 144:12

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” Isaiah 40:30

We are called to preach to the younger generation; to cultivate their strength, to ensure that they are well nurtured, and to prepare them to be effective witnesses in this world.

How shall we who preach reach members of Generation Y – also known as the Millennial Generation or the iPod Generation (those born from mid-1970’s to the early 2000’s) with the good news?

Every generation has a generational persona with distinct attitudes about family life, gender roles, institutions, politics, lifestyles, and the future.

Each generation possesses its own personal biography and develops an adherence to certain fundamental notions and worldviews that shapes the group’s direction from youth through old age.

A Survey was taken by www.christianitytoday.com that asked young adults why they dropped out of church. Of those who dropped out, about 97% stated it was because of life changes or situations. That’s a pretty substantial number. Among their more specific reasons:

  • They simply wanted a break from church (27 percent).
  • They had moved to college (25 percent).
  • Their work made it impossible or difficult to attend (23 percent).

About 58% of young adults indicated they dropped out because of their church or pastor. When we probed further, they said:

  • Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical (26 percent).
  • They didn’t feel connected to the people at their church (20 percent).
  • Church members were unfriendly and unwelcoming (15 percent).

Fifty-two percent indicated some sort of religious, ethical or political beliefs as the reason they dropped out.  In other words, about 52% changed their Christian views. Maybe they didn’t believe what the church taught, or they didn’t believe what they perceived others in the church to believe.

Sociologist, historians, and theologians suggest that we are living in the midst of a paradigm shift. Young adults inhabit a different world than that of their parents.We must use a new structure and preach in a more participatory fashion. Preaching must invite listeners to use not just the left but also the right hemisphere of their brain.

Those who take on the high calling of preaching for young adults in the digital age must do two things: number one, meet youth where they are and number two, preach the word with integrity.

Don’t dumb down the gospel or its demands

We must not reduce the good news to a bland, pleasant drink, palatable to all.Young adults are allergic to a watered-down gospel and we must not shove doctrine down their throats.

Young adults who come to church in our time have chosen to come. They want and need sermons that help them see what God is up to in the world and where they can hook in.

George Barna sees that the challenge for Christian leaders is to learn how to communicate with this generation and get them to understand and embrace God’s Word without compromising it. This generation wants spirituality and faith experience, not the traditional routines and dispassionate worship they see adults doing at the typical church.

 

 

References:

ADAMS, J. Preaching to Young Adults. Journal for Preachers. 34, 4, 27-32, 2011. ISSN: 1057-266X.

HERSHBERGER, M. Navigating with a New Map: Preaching for Youth and Young Adults. Vision (Winnipeg, Man.). 10, 1, 56-62, 2009. ISSN: 1492-7799.

STETZER, ED. real-reasons-young-adults-drop-out-of-church. DEC. 2014.   < http://www.Christianitytoday.com >

BARNA, GEORGE. Generation Next (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1995), 74-96.

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A South Carolina native, the Rev. Kelcy Steele and his wife Natasha live in Los Angeles, where he is the pastor of First AME Zion Church of Los Angeles. Visit www.thepastorsteeleshow.info/ to learn more about his regular radio broadcast.

1 COMMENT

  1. View from a UMC pew: It is not just the young adults that want/need a head on teaching of the real, undiluted gospel. I was 59 when I finally got lost, confused and broken enough by the church that I distanced myself from it and finally found clear teaching that told me who God is and who I am. Christianity went from feeling like rocket science to being simply unfathomable. I finally found myself in the wide open space of God’s amazing grace wondering why I had never been taught these things before. Being a “genetic Methodist” and after delving into Wesley and early Methodism, the fact that I found the teaching I so desperately needed in the Calvinist camp through the Heidelberg Catechism and three modern books about it has been a very bitter pill to swallow. Because The United Methodist Church has been a very strong–and up to a point beneficial– presence in my life, I have returned to the local UMC on Sunday mornings, but my relationship with it will never ever be the same! And when my 25 year old son talks about finding a church, I encourage him to explore other options.

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