Younger adults – people from 18 to 35 years old – have a bad reputation in many circles.
“Kids these days,” people say, “don’t take responsibility, and they don’t know how to work hard.” Sometimes this criticism is accurate, deserved.
Ironically, Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials and the Entitlement Generation are the groups that politicians and churches try to recruit, but often fail to reach.
When offering critique, it is important to remember that times have changed. A minimum wage job does not provide a living wage, and finding a job was difficult for several years.
Meanwhile, high education costs and the resulting debt have stifled investments.
With a growing economy and more affordable healthcare, however, it looks like things are finally turning around for the better.
In a recent article in USA Today titled “Young Adults May Spark Economy,” Paul Davidson reported that about 44 percent of the generation I’ve described will be purchasing or renting homes in the next year.
This is great news. Younger adults are moving out of their parents’ houses as employment is rising and various debts, including student loans, are getting paid off.
The increase in young adult independence means an increase in the economy as a whole.
As Davidson noted, a growing consumer market of young adults could “turbo charge [economic] growth” and send a “ripple across the economy.”
What does this mean for the church?
First, if young adults are becoming economically empowered in the marketplace and taking ownership of an independent future, they have the potential to take more ownership in local churches.
It is said that the people who pay for and run the church are from older generations.
That is true based on my own experience. People from previous generations provide most of the leadership in church and clams in the coffers.
So let me speak boldly to my generation: It is time to grow up. Without us, many of our churches – the congregations that nurtured us and raised us in the faith we hold dear – need our investments of time, money and creative leadership.
Now that we have some money to spend and independence from debt, it is time to get serious about church.
This should have been a commitment despite these factors, but now the excuses are diminishing.
When jobs are prevalent, housing is stable and debts are fewer, a budget that includes tithes and offerings – and a time-management plan that includes God – must be a priority.
Now let me be bold with local churches: You need to let young adults lead committees, craft liturgies and ministries that meet a diverse set of needs, and take ownership of a few things we’ve been afraid to surrender.
I’ve seen this work very effectively at a local church in Conyers, Georgia.
The attendance of their young adults ministry has increased almost fourfold over the last several years. Their church found renewed vigor in crafting a vision that includes their participation.
But this only happened because the church took brave, strategic steps in getting young adults involved.
They asked young adults to head committees, create new ministries and participate in fellowship opportunities that widened the church’s welcome to other young families.
It should be noted that this congregation has not moved to contemporary worship with fancy technology or marketing.
Many churches think they need to have praise songs and be tech-savvy to attract young adults, but that’s not the case.
Young adults want to take ownership and have input. They want to feel connected without having to sacrifice what they value most: a voice in church leadership.
Of course, this assumes young adults have a voice worth listening to, which isn’t always the case.
Our generation needs to step up and pay their dues, work hard and prove that churches can count on us.
We must earn trust and credibility to be congregational leaders. We can no longer expect the church to be there for us when we’re not there for the church.
The church – and the younger adult generations – is at a pivotal place in history. We need to stand up for the local church and keep it going.
We need to lead it into a future in which creative entrepreneurship will be the church’s greatest ministry engines to meet the needs of tomorrow and the day after that.
Joe LaGuardia is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Vero Beach, Florida.