Last Saturday my two younger brothers, my future brother-in-law, and my two best friends and I engaged in the ‘Tournament of Champions.’ The competition consisted of go-carts, laser tag, air hockey, putt-putt, and pop-a-shot. A scoring matrix was derived for each game. The group had concocted this day-long event for my bachelor party. And it was quite a catharsis to act like I was twelve again, though my fiancé might say that I act in such a way more often than I will admit.
The competition was intense, but despite the intensity of everyone we were able to catch up on life’s events. I asked my friends about their churches and what they were doing in their local body. One of my good friends, ‘Jon,’ reluctantly answered that he had not attended church in quite some time. I was somewhat taken aback because Jon was raised in the church and had attended a Christian school. He proclaimed to be born-again. I asked Jon why he had stopped attending his local church. He curtly responded with some guilt, “I just don’t feel connected any more.”
I thought to myself, if Jon (and others like him) could be as intense about his involvement with the local church as he is with our silly Tournament of Champions, then the church would be alive with evangelical energy. Unfortunately, many within this young adult age bracket are rapidly leaving the church.
Our entire crew that Saturday is in their early to mid twenties (though I am now about to push into the late twenties). And this age group has much intensity and energy that could be directed at ministries within the church. LifeWay Research recently conducted a study on why young adults age 18-34 fall away from the church. This study showed that the overarching theme with their departure is that they feel the church is no longer relevant to them, that the connection is lost once they graduate high school.
This research shows that the greatest need within the young adult generation is building relationships and connecting with one another. Additionally, this group is searching for the Truth, yet they do not want to be mollycoddled every Sunday morning. They are seeking a challenge. And they value the journey of finding things out for themselves. My friend Jon loves a challenge, and he is one who truly wants to make a difference in other people’s lives.
The church should be greatly encouraged by the fact that young adults are ready for ‘reality.’ And we should be seeking to train and disciple them, place them in pertinent leadership roles, and hold them accountable. When the bar is set high and excellence is demanded, then the church will attract and keep those who truly seek to assimilate and make a difference in ministry.
We are not competing for the souls of the lost. Rather, we are in battle. The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 6 that we are called to stand firm. The body of believers needs those who will champion the gospel message, those who will share their faith unwaveringly.
The church needs relevant and exciting energy to reach those who do not know Christ. While a person of any age can certainly provide such characteristics, there is an entire younger generation that is walking away from the church because they feel their contributions are not highlighted. Churches that recapture this young adult group will certainly see an increase in those who desire to be Champions for Christ, winning an entire generation for Jesus.