By Silvi Pirn
We recently met with Jake Mulder to begin a plan for the future of Kenilworth Union Church.
You may remember seeing the “Growing Young” assessment tool in March and early April. That title is deceiving. The assessment and how it helps our Church is less about “young” than it is about “growing”. We are energized about the future of our Church and we plan to grow!
On Saturday, April 13, about 35 Church leaders, members, and youth spent the day with Jake Mulder, one of the co-authors of the book Growing Young. Jake is very knowledgeable about significant demographic shifts happening in the church world today, shifts that we need to pay attention to as we think about ministry today and into the future.
One of the significant shifts Jake highlighted is the “church gap” many young people experience on their faith journey. This gap is the one that happens when youth leave high school and enter college and adult life. For most people that is when they leave the church. Few connect with a church in college or after leaving college. Only about half re-join church when they have children of their own. That number is declining.
This “church gap” cycle is not new, but people are having children later, especially in communities like ours. Instead of leaving church at 18 and returning at 25 or 30, today’s adults are often 30–40 years old before they return to church. Some will never have families.
The best plan for the future of their faith and the future of our church is for us to keep people of all ages engaged. It is my experience that those, especially in the gap years, long to be connected with God and church and purpose, but our church and others like ours are not optimally positioned to engage them right now.
Of course our group on April 13 was unanimous in wanting to minister to younger adults and welcome them into the life of our church and congregation. Jake helped us think about where to start with this. One of the buzzwords that came out of the day was “intergenerational”. We imagined a church where young and old are sharing faith together. We know that our older members have so much wisdom and knowledge that could benefit younger adults. Younger people have skills and knowledge they could share with older people.
That was just the beginning. We invite you to join us on this journey toward an exciting and vibrant future for our church and will be talking about it often.
May the Holy Spirit be our guide.