Who Are They?
In order to minister effectively to young adults, we need to be clear about who they are. ("Anyone younger than I am" isn't an adequate identifier.) We are defining young adults in these terms:
- Ages 22-30
- Post-college or post-high school
- Not likely to be parents
- Not likely to be homeowners
- Starting out in careers
This decade shows certain characteristics:
- A decade of stress and maturation
- Adjusting to life on their own, often in new environment, without support structures of family and school
- Facing adult accountability for first time
- Dealing with stressors like loneliness, not belonging, feeling disconnected
- Dealing with grownup relationship issues
- Sexual pressures
- Some ready for marriage, some not; friendship circles change dramatically
- Sometimes over-committed on career
- Completing move away from parents' values and politics, and now adopting their own
- Target for enormous commercial energy and manipulation
- Just starting to address questions of who they are and what they want out of life
These characteristics aren't uniform, of course. Part of being a young adult is defying easy categorization. Nor do these characteristics apply evenly throughout the age range. Even though the average age of starting marriage is nearing 30, many marry earlier in this decade. Many start families. A healthy congregation will look closely at its actual and potential young adult constituents to see them as they are.
We need to address some misconceptions:
- Age range: A range of 20-40 is too broad. Young adults are defined by being in early stages of certain life transitions (career, residence, marriage).
- Worship: "Trendy worship" might miss the mark. Many young adults are looking for tradition, but offered in a lively and engaging format. Some want contemporary worship, because they perceive its message as being more pertinent.
- Self-centeredness: Young adults are often seen as self-centered and are treated that way by commerce. In fact, idealism is strong at that age.
- Interests: This age group is often seen as interested only in careers and fun. Other concerns are evident, too, such as search for meaning in life and in religion, new circles of friendship, a sense of belonging.
- Sunday is sufficient: Increasingly, the needs that people bring to a faith community must be addressed in ways other than Sunday worship. This is true for all age groups, but especially for young adults. The older generations who tend to lead congregations will need to rethink their focus -- often exclusive focus -- on Sunday morning.