26 January 2010

"Where the Boys (and Girls) Are" --- The Myth of the Missing Young Adult

Those of us working in young adult ministry often find ourselves battling a myth: that we don't exist. Without fail, whenever the subject of programming geared toward us is raised in a congregation, some older member will say with absolute certainty that there are no young adults in his or her church (or even his or her whole town.)

This is not true.

We won't deny that young adults are, by and large, absent from Sunday morning services, but that doesn't mean that A) we always will be or that B) we don't still feel attached to our local congregation or to Unitarian Universalism.

So where are all the young adults?

Some possibilities:
  • In your congregation. You might think you don't have any young adults at your church, but you're probably wrong. If you have a religious education program, you probably have young adults in the form of parents. Remember: a young adult is anyone under the age of 40.
  • Away at school. Keeping in touch with young adults in your congregation who have recently graduated from high school is crucial: youth group alumni are young adults! Your Director of Religious Education or youth group adviser(s) will probably be able to help you contact them.

  • Unchurched." Many young adults---25 percent, according to this survey---have no religious affiliation. Some of these people are likely to be looking for a spiritual community---some of them are UUs but don't yet know it because they've never heard of us. The church they choose could be yours!
  • Elsewhere, but still UU. A great number of Unitarian Universalist young adults don't go to church on Sundays, but are still passionate about their faith and extremely active in campus ministry groups or at conferences on Star Island and in other places.
  • At a church nearby. Even if you're absolutely sure your congregation doesn't have any young adults, the one in the next town probably does. Don't be afraid to contact another congregation to ask, for instance, whether it has a young adult group. It may.
Young adults: are you active in your local congregation? Was there a period in your life when you were less active? Why?
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