Saturday, December 22, 2007

Googling God

If your church is not interested in reaching young adults, it should be! For many years, campus ministry was the laboratory for the church in reaching young adults. Denominational collegiate ministry was a place of experimentation and innovation in finding new ways to tell the old story. I am not so sure that is true today (but that is a story for another time).

From time to time, a new resource surfaces to aid churches and church-related ministries in their outreach to young adults. My friend Dick Olsen of Central Seminary introduced me to a new one recently: Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s by Mike Hayes (Paulist Press, 2007).

I did a quick survey of the book and have to start with a couple of disclaimers:

First, it is written from a Roman Catholic perspective, so the reader will have to work through that and interpret the comments in his or her own context.

Second, if Hayes talked about postmodernism, I missed it. He takes a generational cohort approach, considering how the church can reach out to those 18 to 39 years of age. This age grouping intersects two generational cohorts--the Gen Xers and the Millennials. Although I think that the generational approach is interesting, it misses the point of the real change that is going on in culture. As Jimmy Long points out in Emerging Hope, we are dealing not simply with generational change, we are dealing with a change in epistemology or "our way of knowing." The generational view is the up close and personal approach; the postmodern view is the satellite photograph.

Hayes takes the generational approach seriously. His understanding of the needs of these two generational groups can be summarized in this quote on page 124:

Milliennial adults as a whole do have more of a longing for security and certitude than do their Gen X counterparts. By the same token, Gen Xers are spiritually enriched by being together in communal experiences but have little need for a personal or private spirituality. Both have an overwhelmingly need to intellectualize their faith--how does all of this make sense in the everyday? Faith for young adults is not a spectator sport. They long to integrate it into every fiber of their lives and live that faith unapologetically.

Even if he misses the postmodern perspective, Hayes' book is worth reading for chapters 7 and 8. Chapter seven is entitled "Doing Ministry: Fifteen Initial Steps in Starting a Young Adult Ministry." It is practical, informative and will stimulate your thinking about doing ministry with this age group. Chapter eight on"Resources for Building a Young Adult Ministry" emphasizes the use of digital resources--the Internet, web pages, podcasting, blogs, and many more.

Whatever your denominational bent or cultural perspective, Hayes provides some helpful ideas for young adult ministry through local faith communities. I wish that more church people took it as seriously.

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