The descriptions of the values of many “spiritual but not religious” people line up pretty nicely with what our UU religious communities could be, or at least what they should at least aspire to be. We have young adult UUs living out UU values in newly-formed “beyond congregation” communities such as the Lucy Stone Cooperative and Beloved Café. But we are have hundreds of traditional congregations–communities of people with checkered histories and institutional baggage.
Another study, by the Barna Group has discovered what is working–at least with Millennials–to enable young adults to stay connected to church. Here are some highlights from the article (translated for UU theology) that can help inform our existing congregations of ways to help our congregations be relevant for younger generations (though the Barna study focused on Millennials, many of these are also true for younger Gen Xers):
- Making room for meaningful relationships. …Seven out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.
- Cultural Discernment. …Millennials need help learning how to apply their hearts and minds to today’s cultural realities. In many ways, pop culture has become the driver of religion for Millennials, so helping them think and respond rightly to culture should be a priority.
- Shared Ministry. “Effective ministry to Millennials means helping these young adults discover their own mission in the world, not merely asking them to wait their turn.”
- Vocational Discipleship. Taking shared ministry a step further, today’s young adults are more interested in making their faith a part of their daily lives. (See the “beyond congregations” examples above)
- Faith Formation. Provide opportunities for young adults to “go deep” within the church’s own faith development programming. Many large congregations (such as First Unitarian Rochester) have created programs that are available by subscription.
-Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, CERG Consultant