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Reform Magazine | September 19, 2021

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Finding the mission generation

Finding the mission generation

Phil Knox explores how to reach, engage and disciple young adults

They are known as the connected generation, the snowflake generation, the generation most talked about and talked to. Throughout the pandemic, they have been criticised for their lack of social distancing and commended for their compassion and creativity. And yet, in many UK churches, there is often a noticeable gap in the age groups of those present in our services and meetings.

In 2009, the Evangelical Alliance published a report called ‘The Missing Generation’. It found that between 1985 and 2005 the numbers of those in their 20s attending church on a Sunday dropped by more than half. These saddening statistics are reflected in many contexts. As a teenager, I was part of a thriving youth group. From that cohort, there are just a handful still following Jesus today.

There are also reasons to be encouraged. In the last 18 months, as churches have moved online, several encouraging pieces of research have found that somewhere between a third and a half of all young adults have attended church services. Some churches are seeing significant growth amongst younger generations.

That said, in most of our contexts, we recognise we could be more fruitful in this area and we long to see more of the ‘missing generation’ found. What might we need to consider to be more fruitful in this vital area of ministry?

One of the most encouraging and exciting parts of my role leading mission to young adults is hearing stories of how those in their 20s and 30s are coming to faith. By far the most common thread is the part that a friend, colleague, family member or neighbour plays. This makes sense in a generation that is hyperconnected and relationally wired. So a key question is: How do we equip and inspire Christian young adults to share their One of the most encouraging and exciting parts of my role leading mission to young adults is hearing stories of how those in their 20s and 30s are coming to faith. By far the most common thread is the part that a friend, colleague, family member or neighbour plays. This makes sense in a generation that is hyperconnected and relationally wired. So a key question is: How do we equip and inspire Christian young adults to share their faith? Few churches (3.6% in one recent study) spend time intentionally training members in evangelism. Investment in this area could bear massive fruit…

Phil Knox is the Head of Mission to Young Adults at the Evangelical Alliance. His book, Story Bearer: How to share your faith with your friends, is published by IVP. ‘The Young Adult Conversation’ is available at www.eauk.org/7-conversations

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This is an extract from an article published in the September 2021 edition of Reform

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