Hayley James

The missing generation

by Hayley James11/03/2010

I've been hearing a lot recently about 'the missing generation', the 18-30 age group bracket that seems to be hemorraging from the church, if not being completely non-existant in some areas.

I am in this generation and I am concerned. Concerned that we are failing to attract, support and disciple people of this age, concerned that the nearest person of my age in my church is either part of the youth group or in their early 40's and concerned that in 20 years time, unless things change we are going to be in an even worse position.

I often think about what we can do, what people of my age may respond to and how our church can be missional to this generation. Sometimes I also wonder whether this 'missing generation' is actually on peoples radars. I often feel like a lone voice calling in the desert when raising this issue in my church.

So whose responsibility is this? And what types of things can we do to address the issue? Do youth workers need to take responsibility for pioneering work beyond the usual 18-20? Does the church need a new type of worker who can enthuse and encourage the church to meet the needs of those in this age bracket? Or does the church just need to wake up to this issue and start allocating resources (money and volunteers) into the area so that in 20 years the 'missing generation' doesn't grow to 18-50?

I don't know who should take responsibility, except that the church needs to ensure someone does. And what might this work look like? Well in a world where we are relationally stunted and communties exist as broken fragments of areas and interest, I think that creating space to meet and talk and live together is the fundamental starting point. Creating a community of relationships in which we can be ourselves and be with others. Everything else, what ever that may look like can be built on this.

This blog is a personal call for us to wake up to the needs that those of us in our 20's face. It's also a challenge for those of us who are youth workers, to explore what happens to our young people when they 'graduate' from our youth work. How do we enable them to be a fully integrated part of our churches and continue to be discipled throughout their 20's and 30's (and forever)?

So, 'what about the missing generation?', this is a question we must face as youth workers if we are to create an integrated process of faith development for the young people we serve now. And for those of us in our twenties, it is a question we must ask for ourselves, our development and discipleship.

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