More studies are taking a closer look at young adults and are finding a fading influence the church is having in their lives. A new LifeWay survey found that a major factor causing young adults to fall out of the pews is the church's inability to minister to them in their transition stage.
"Young adults are in the middle – not married, not old enough, not in high school; [we're] in this 'ugh' stage," said one survey respondent in the latest LifeWay Research report.
The survey measured people age 18 to 34 and found that this particular group's greatest need is community.
According to the findings, 73 percent of church members and 47 percent of non-affiliated young adults indicated that community with other young adults is extremely important in their lives. But once they end high school, churches send them away to their next life stage without accountability.
"After graduation, they (the church) give you a pat on the back and say, 'when you start a family, we'll be here for you,'" said another respondent.
"The church’s responsibility is to reach every generation with the love of Jesus Christ," stated Jim Johnston, director of young adult ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, in the report. "It just so happens that this generation’s biggest need is relationship. The church ought to be the author and purveyor of the best, deepest, most loving friendships around."
The need for community was further confirmed when 71 percent of young adult churchgoers said they want to participate in small-group meetings to discuss life application of Scripture. They, along with those not affiliated, said they desired to participate in Bible study that minimizes finding pat answers in the exploration of Scripture.
"The lost and the saved in this age group are looking for just what the church can provide in Biblical community," said Johnston. "They want absolute truth but they embrace the struggle of finding it themselves. They don’t want it to be spoon-fed to them."
In such small group settings, 68 percent of churched and 45 percent of unchurched young adults said they can find "advice from individuals with similar experiences."
Meeting the needs of others, or social action, also proved to be another essential element to this generation with 66 percent of churchgoers and 47 percent of non-churchgoers agreeing.
Social action not only draws churched people but it is also cited as a major reason unchurched young adults would consider being part of a church, according to LifeWay.
"Young adults gravitate to churches that are making an impact," Johnston noted. "This age group is embracing service, social action and missions. They will embrace the church with a cause as well."
Johnston is optimistic about this generation, but warned some churches of the need to change their methodology to reach them.
"They (young adults) want to embrace church, but only the genuine, earth-shaking, Christ-powered New Testament church. For some churches, that’s going to mean changing methodology – but not the message of the Bible."