Friday, 18 May 2012

Where are the 18-30s in our churches

This week I came across a new website www.missinggeneration.com The Missing Generation website is an initiative of the Younger Leaders Forum of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, they want to create awareness of the lack of 18-30 year olds in our churches. They want to resource, encourage and empower our churches, young adults and youth leaders into reaching the young adults of their locality.

Baptists are not the first group to begin to wake up to the fact that there ia missing generation in our chruches, in September 2009 the the Evangelical Alliance Council met to discuss the ‘Missing Generation’ of 18-30s in our churches in Britain today.  Research carried out recently by Innovista and the UK Evangelical Alliance revealed that 96% of church leaders place increasing the number of 16-30 year olds in their churches as either a priority or the top priority in their churches. Yet despite this only 11% of church leaders feel ‘well-resourced’ to do this. Jason Lane, Innovista’s Executive Director, writes: “16-30 year olds represent one of the greatest mission challenges of our day. The rapid-rate life change that accompanies these years creates openness as young people figure out what they will give their lives to. Offering this generation credible opportunities to follow Jesus is a 'must do’”

In June 2011 the Methodist Church produced a report for its 2011 Methodist Conference called
 The Missing Generation and the Methodist Church, interestingly they defined their missing generation at 25 to 40 yr olds. This report is 36 pages long and can be found at www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/you-missinggeneration-full-report-2011.pdf.

I have had a personal interest in this issue from the moment I became Pastor of Hoole Baptist Church at the tender age of 28, I have been through the process of being an emerging leader, a young leader and now at age of 46 I am established a “middle aged” leader!! The church I lead has been fortunate in that being placed in a University City we have, over the years, been one of the “student churches” and a steady if not small stream of 18 year olds turn up each October and begin to settle in life in Chester and with HBC. But even in a student city I have seen the numbers grow smaller over the years, in 2005 according to the English Church Census 3.5% of 19 to 29 yr olds went to church and Fusion is now telling us that only 2% of students are actively involved in church at university. Talking to church leaders across the city many are seeing an increasing gap in their congregations of this age profile. Thinking about this issue for HBC I am encouraged that approx 25% of our congregation is aged 18 to 30.

There are no easy answers but for me on how we engage with and disciple this generation but the recent advertising campaign for Hovis bread which shows a boy being sent to the corner shop to get some bread can give us some clues. As he travels back with his trusty loaf, he is transported through some of the key moments in 20th century British history. The message is that Hovis has been with us through thick and thin (excuse the pun) and can also be relied upon into the future. It is especially in difficult times such as the current economic crisis that we need to be able to look backwards to the good things in the past and carry them forward into the future. Teaching Bible truths is vital, but we also need some creative thinking to show how the Bible speaks to every culture and generation. Personally I like to connect Bible truths to current films and current affairs. I like to sing a mix of classic hymns and the latest festival worship music. I like to use modern technology and the latest gadgets as I quote from ancient commentators and modern celebrities.

I welcome this new initiative and look forward to hearing more from the Missing Generation website,