Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them
It’s no secret that young adults are unplugging or never getting plugged into to a local church. LOST AND FOUND tackles this trend head-on to uncover the disconnect between them and the church.
The book is divided into three sections: the first examines who the unchurched population really is along with what they believe and think about spiritual issues; the second offers an analysis of ministry needs for the unchurched; and the third highlights churches that are reaching young adults and effectively engaging the emerging culture. Much of the data comes from three different research projects sponsored by the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Research.
One of the most interesting ideas Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley and Jason Hayes explore is that the unchurched are not a homogeneous group. They are diverse in their experiences and beliefs. The authors uncovered four types of unchurchd young adults: always unchurched (never been involved); de-churched (attended as a child); friendly unchurched (not particularly angry at the church); and hostile unchurched (angry at the church or have had negative experiences with the church).
Much of the research shows that while the unchurched acknowledge that God, or a higher supreme being, exists (81%), the majority also believe that the God of the Bible is no different from other gods or spiritual beings of varied world religions (58%). When it comes to churches reaching the unchurched, the research exposes that what leaders sometimes think the unchurched want versus what they really want are two different issues. For example, only 31% of respondents said they would attend a church if the music was similar to their personal tastes, and only 46% would be willing to join a small group to learn more about the Bible and Jesus. But 63% would want to attend a church that presented the truth in an understandable way that related to their life.
One of the refreshing things about LOST AND FOUND is what it does not do. The authors do not get distracted by trying to dive into a myriad of sidelining issues regarding what’s wrong with the church or our belief system, nor do they try to paint a picture of what the church will look like in 50 years. Instead, the material remains unapologetically focused on two questions: Who are the young unchurched? And how can they be reached with the Good News of Jesus?
To this end, Stetzer, Stanley and Hayes explore nine common characteristics of churches who are successfully reaching the young unchurched. These congregations are intentional about creating a deeper community and making a difference through service. They create an atmosphere where young adults can experience worship and draw attendees with a conversational teaching style. Successful churches are not buying into the myth that young adults only want to hang out with themselves, and they’re intentional about building cross-generational relationships. They’re also not afraid to leverage technology, move toward authenticity, lead with transparency, or develop a team approach to leadership.
LOST AND FOUND is a good resource for those trying to reach the next generation and understand how they think.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on February 1, 2009