The generation of Young Adults is a new social phenomenon. Only in recent years have the former adults been differentiated into young adults and adults.
Young Adults are between 18 and 30 years old and are also called the Millennials because they were born around the turn of the millennium. Their quality as “digital natives” distinguishes them from the generation above. We are dealing here with the first children of the PC and mobile phone age, also called Generation Y.
A thousand names for one generation?
Why do we define a new generation and why does this generation have so many names?
3 years ago I read for the first time in a brochure from Disney in Florida that there is officially the generation of Young Adults. There were roller coasters that were especially suitable for teenagers and young adults, not for children and not necessarily for adults.
Until then, I had always resisted looking at this age group separately. Sociologists had already given such definitions before, but I thought it was more of a scientific bean counting.
But the Young Adults are actually different from the 18- to 30-year-olds 20 years ago. At that time, an 18-year-old girl or boy was an adult. There you go. Meanwhile, these young people are floating in an interspace. On the one hand still in education, often no great income of their own, mostly still living with their parents or in a student dormitory. On the other hand already in employment, well paid, but without family, in fancy flats and outside of great personal responsibility.
The crucial point for this generation is independence. An independence that goes far beyond any comparable situation in previous generations:
1. Young Adults are economically independent. Either well supported by their parents or already in well-paid employment.
2. Since there is no financial pressure and they are also extremely mobile, they do not necessarily have to make decisions with lifelong consequences.
3. The majority of young adults are not married. And they certainly don’t have any children.
According to surveys, 60% of young adults say they are very stressed. In a recent sermon, the pastor put forward the thesis that this is still far understated. Where does this stress come from?
For anyone over 35, it is hard to understand how young people, who do not have to bear any great economic or family responsibilities, can be so stressed. But that is exactly the difficulty: We are not digital natives. We haven’t been on the Internet from an early age with all the social media on our backs. We do not have to compare ourselves all the time 24/7 (the typical young term for permanent). When I was a teenager, in the 80s, we had the comparison in school and maybe in the circle of friends and the clique. Today the young people constantly see pictures of others on the internet, pictures of extremely pretty people, pictures of extremely rich people, pictures of extremely successful people.
I’m not uploading a picture in which I look the way I normally do. I’m uploading a particularly good picture. With the best light. The best makeup. A bit edited. With my best clothes. In a special place. Exactly not everyday life!
But what do you see as a viewer? You don’t see the extraordinary nature of this picture. You think: Wow, how pretty, cool, great outfit, super location. And then I look in the mirror. And I see my old shirt.
Too many options
In addition, the ability of the digital age means that we have endless options.
• What am I supposed to be? What do I want to work for all my life? After all, I don’t want to make the wrong choices. I’d like course XY, but what if I don’t want to do it for 30 years? It’s getting harder and harder to make that decision.
• Or: I’ll give it a try with Business Studies. But I won’t do it anymore after the first semester. How about less math, maybe psychology? After the second semester I realize that it has too much to do with other people’s problems. Okay, how about law. The first exams show me that I have too much to learn. What can I do now? Should I stay permanently on one thing when there are so many possibilities?
Due to their economic independence and mobility, this generation is increasingly looking for compensatory measures to escape stress. Depending on background, faith, values and convictions there is everything: shopping, travelling, fun, parties, clubs, alcohol, drugs, sex.
Where are the young adults in the church?
In Germany as well as in England, South Africa and the USA I have noticed that most of the people of Generation Y are mainly to be found in the new church movements like Hillsongs and Planetshakers. And that churches with longer traditions find it extremely difficult to deal with them.
I heard the following from one of the worship leaders in Willow Creek Chicago: “It is not easy for us to reach the generation of young adults. And when we reach them, it’s even harder to hold them. Even my friends at Hillsongs have this problem!” If someone like that tells me who is at home in a congregation as modern as Willow Creek, how much greater is the challenge for traditional churches and congregations?
Problem number one:
How do we reach the generation of young adults?
Problem number two:
What does the generation of young adults need to stay in the church permanently?
In my book “Kids Zone” I have already explained in detail that today I can no longer reach children with the program that 50 years ago addressed children.
I have to consider the same with the Young Adults, of course. However, we can easily learn a few things when we look at the churches that the younger generation reach: Hillsongs and Planetshakers.
What distinguishes Hillsongs from my church?
Hillsongs attaches great importance to good music. Music that is contemporary, music that can compete with all secular offerings. Qualitative music. Modern music. Texts that use my language. Good performance. Excellent technical implementation. So look at your music and worship work. How’s it set up? Who’s it reaching? What can you do to change this? The best book on this subject is by Joshua Wesely: “Made for Worship”. In it you will find everything described above and how to get there.
In addition to the music, the sermon should also appeal to young people. Do you have themes that change people’s everyday lives? Topics that provide answers to young people’s difficult questions? Is this sermon also so that you can listen and don’t fall asleep?
Fun and community
The next key point is fun and fellowship: young adults are usually not heady suits. They need community, a place where they can laugh, chill and just talk. Someone to listen. Do something stupid and be a kid. They love to romp around like kids on a bouncy castle and forget that tomorrow they will be asked to make decisions again. Do you offer such a room? If not, find one or two young people. Decorate, install music and light, put sofas… and find solutions!
Give them responsibility. In a protected environment, it is a positive to be challenged. In various conversations with Young Adults, who are themselves very active in their churches, that was heard. Don’t be afraid to scare young people away with it. Give them responsibility. And don’t leave them alone then. A meaningful and sustainable cooperation in the church is for many a welcome compensation for the stress in their everyday life.
Find out what the Young Adults are interested in in your church (or, if there are none, in your city). Offers them an environment in which they feel comfortable and find answers. This can be anything from organizing single trips to film evenings in the original language to sports or pastoral care offers. The subject of partnership is a very popular one, by the way, as there is a great deal of uncertainty and a huge need for tips and assistance.