The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


More young adults unchurched?

How Lutherans can engage us

I don't think Lutherans should be alarmed about the Pew Forum results. I do recognize decline in the ELCA as a concern. The Pew research reveals the tendency for people in this country to leave their childhood religion.

All groups experienced gain and loss ... people's faith is in flux. Of particular interest to me is the unaffiliated demographic among young adults. Young adults are on journeys of self-identity that may take them away from organized religion but not necessarily from faith.

One quarter of adults under 30 are "unaffiliated," many of whom choose "nothing in particular" for religion. As a young adult and trained spiritual director, I am curious about what this means ... for myself, my peers and the church.

For example. I've given spiritual direction in coffee shops. I believe if the church is to understand the young culture, it must be able to adapt. Seattle's coffee shops are sacred spaces. I know people who are more comfortable in a coffee shop than inside a church. They express faith in Christ and [place] high importance [on] community, but [have] little interest in the confines of [a traditional] church.

Given the fluidity of religious affiliation in this country, how can Lutherans engage with young adults? Here are a few thoughts ...

• Be genuine. Really.

• Please don't target us. Find out where we are and through what means we find spirituality.

• Ask us to be on committees and take seriously our input.

• Give those of us who aren't seminarians permission to create worship and write sermons (really, trust us).

• Branch out beyond the Lutheran bubble ... many of us are moving beyond denominational boundaries.

• But most importantly: listen to us and hear our stories.




Posted at 3:40 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/19/2009

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February issue


Embracing diversity