Younger adults comprise 23 percent of the U.S. population, but that portion of young people is found in only one in 10 local churches, according to a Faith Communities Today (FACT) analysis.

Eighteen percent of congregations surveyed “reported no young adult presence in their congregations,” the report noted, an increase of around 10 percent since 2010.

“Overall, the average percentage of young adults in American congregations decreased from 14 percent of active participants in 2008 to 11 percent in 2015,” FACT said.

While emphasizing the complexity of determining causation for this decline in participation and representation, the analysis set forth several “key practices and characteristics of congregations that can make a difference in recruiting and retaining young adult participants.”

These include:

  1. Larger, urban congregations (or those in newer suburbs) in growing population areas have higher percentages of younger adult participation.
  2. Uses technology (internet, social media and so on) and are racially / ethnically diverse.
  3. Focus on “recruiting new people and engaging in congregational programs, committees, and service projects outside of worship.”
  4. Young adult ministry is a priority, a strategy for outreach to younger adults is in place, and there is an effort to incorporate guests and new members into congregational life.
  5. A strong majority of the church is involved in ministry activities in addition to attending weekly worship gatherings.
  6. Ministries to younger adults focused on fellowship groups, social media connections, small group Bible studies and community service.
  7. The congregation has at least one leader (paid or volunteer) focused specifically on ministry to younger adults, and “one or more leader(s) of young adult ministries be young adults themselves.”

FACT concluded: “In the end, there is no ‘magic bullet,’ no single solution that will turn congregations into places where young adults are both welcomed into an existing structure, and also empowered to transform those structures in ways that are meaningful for them. Passion and intentionality – in the form of strategies, priority, people and time – are essential for cultivating this ministry; but ultimately, these things are necessary for building any thriving ministry.”

The full report is available here.

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