Sunday, January 20, 2008

Twenty-somethings

At the very least, I need to rethink the way I teach religion.

At the most, I need to rethink the way I do church.

That's because people today don't grow up the same way they did when I was in school.

In addition to pastoring a two-church district, you see, I also teach the religion classes at our local Adventist high school. And traditionally, the high point of the senior-year religion class was the students' chance to plan their own wedding -- I mean, they'd spend weeks pouring over bridal magazines, pricing caterers, and picking out suitably hideous dresses for the bridesmaids.

Great fun -- and in 1970, you could argue this was time well spent. Half the women in that class, after all, would be planning their own weddings for real at some point in the next three years.

But today, the median age for first marriages is 27 for men and 25 for women -- and that's not the only thing that's changed. As David Brooks noted in his column, "The Odyssey Years":
People who were born before 1964 tend to define adulthood by certain accomplishments — moving away from home, becoming financially independent, getting married and starting a family.

In 1960, roughly 70 percent of 30-year-olds had achieved these things. By 2000, fewer than 40 percent of 30-year-olds had done the same.

Obviously, this affects the way I teach religion. Does it make sense for my seniors to plan a wedding, for instance, when over half of them still won't be married in eight-years' time?

But what about the churches I lead? It's been difficult enough to reach some kind of modus vivendi with Boomers -- but as two posts in Our of Ur pointed out, the new generation of twenty-somethings is having just as much trouble with Boomer pastors as those Boomers did with their elders. And a series of articles in the National Catholic Reporter all agree that the Catholic Church is facing the same problem.

So what's happening with twenty-somethings in your church? What have you tried? What worked? What didn't work? And what do you think might have worked, if only you'd been allowed to try?

No comments: