In conversations with church leaders, a question I hear often is, “How do we reach young people?”
While oversimplified answers to such questions typically annoy me, I was struck by recent research coming out of the Church of England.
The Church Army Research Unit, a part of the research program of the Church of England, recently examined 1,100 fresh expressions of church in the UK and found, “FxC attenders are much younger than the control group of parishes surveyed, with an average age of 25-34 against the average age of 65 for parish church attenders.”
While there is no simple answer to the question about how to reach young people, we should certainly pay special attention to movements in the Church that are finding success in this area, particularly ones in mainline denominations (an achievement never even imagined decades ago).
So What’s Up?
So what is it about the Fresh Expressions movement that is connecting with young people?
As a young pastor and minister to young people I have a few personal observations, which have been further shaped by Erwin McManus’s Soul Cravings.
A Longing for Community
Methodist author Scott Kisker writes, “Faith is born in the midst of relationship.” Fresh expressions offer a comfortable environment to engage in face-to-face interactions about faith and life. In the age of social media, it’s not easy for young folks to find such opportunities.
A Desire for Purpose
As the realities of adulthood set in, we quickly realize that the American dream not only is impossible to attain, but also fails to bring lasting satisfaction. The Christian community of a fresh expression provides young people with an opportunity to explore what their true purpose might be.
A Search for Meaning
Lastly, I’ve seen young people desperately search for truth. While few young folks I know want to be told what truth is, that does not mean they are not searching for it. Fresh expressions of church often provide the open environment needed for those who are searching.
The research coming from England should catch the attention of all church leaders and denominational leaders hoping to connect their churches to younger generations.
If you would like to learn more about fresh expressions and how to start one, check out my free e-book.
Luke Edwards is the Associate Director of Church Development for the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church and a trainer for Fresh Expressions US. He was the founding pastor of King Street Church, a network of fresh expressions in Boone, NC. Participating in local, regional, and national levels of the Fresh Expressions movement has given Luke a unique perspective into the future of the mainline church in a post-Christian society. You can follow him on twitter at @lukesedwards or check out his blog A Way in the Wilderness (http://www.awitw.org).