Let's get this out of the way: Going to college has NOTHING to do with young adults not being part of church or identifying as "no religious affiliation." There are so many issues with that idea it's barely worth discussing at all. But let's point out a few major issues:
- It's based on a weak view of God, one where God cannot even "win" against "human ideas." So many places in scripture and in the Christian tradition we see this is a false idea.
- It also requires us to think that we can fully understand God and God's ways. Also a view that holds no water in scripture or tradition.
- It also seems to assume we're better off not being part of the world we're created as part of, as well as assuming that we shouldn't learn about and discuss with those who challenge our ways of thinking. Even Paul would laugh at these pieces, and many who hold this type of belief often point to his works as THE authority on what Christ and God mean to the world first and foremost.
- Many who make this argument have advanced degrees themselves. Which just makes no sense. So many issues here.
So why don't they see the need for a church home, for a community of faith, for a place in the body of God? Because they are adolescents. People trying to find their individual identity, people who have been for most of their life. Adolescence is extended in our society, and as much as I wish we could just fix that problem, we can't, we have to deal with the reality of that is what it is. We have to stop having church for adults, and become where adolescents take what they are discovering about themselves and connect to something greater.
Which makes the church a place that nurtures people towards adulthood together. Which of course is not as simple as it sounds. Yet, I think until we deal with the fact that we live in a society where adolescence is expected/allowed/
Young people aren't going to have the same attachment to the institutional church that any other generation has had. Yet, we, as the church, can create new relationships with those who will one day want to find a home community of their own. We just can't expect them to act like what we have seen in the past. Forty year old adolescents who are raising eight year old adolescents aren't going to come back to the church, but they do know a community that shares their passions for justice and a better world when they see one. How do we connect to those who are seeking those things while not expecting them to fit our adult mode until they get there in their own lives?
That is the question that I think we should be asking, that is what the "Next Church" looks like. It is both a bunch of individuals who think they may share similar passions within their larger world. Not brought together by a set of beliefs or even a "faith," but by the commonality of searching and becoming. Giving people that space and opportunity will become a larger part of who we are.
All of this is to say we need to not focus on what is causing a certain group to not be active in the church, bur rather on the "whys" that they are looking for. This means more focus on Human development and communication theory as we move forward, which does mean less simple answers, but as seen above the simple answers just don't hold up. Let's move forward in reality and let God deal with what makes the world ideal.