Title: After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion
Author: Robert Wuthnow
Young Adults find their spiritual influences in numerous places, and “tinker” with their spirituality as they try and make it their own, this is because the church has not offered a unified source or place of support that young adults need. Wuthnow notes:
The amazing thing about this pattern of support and socialization is that it all comes to a halt about the time a young person reaches the age of twenty-one or twenty-two. After providing significant institutional support for the developmental tasks that occurred before then, we provide almost nothing for the developmental tasks that are accomplished when people are in their twenties and thirties… It means that younger adults are having to invent their own ways of making decisions and seeking support for those decisions… In the absence of any institutional sources of support and stability, young adults are forced to be individualistic. (12-13)
While their attendance in church is low, this is not because they have lost their faith, they still work on their spiritual lives, whether in church or not; the percentage of young adults with “orthodox” beliefs is not less than it was a generation ago. Also, the percentage of young adults who talk about their faith with their friends is higher than in other current age groups. Part of why young adults are not in church is because the church has not met their unique spiritual (and life, in general) needs. How can churches meet the needs of young adults whose lives are influenced by “uncertainty, diversity, fluidity, searching, tinkering”?
Martha Korienek is Associate Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame, CA.