Narcissism and apathy are out. A growing number of Christians say too many young people have checked out of the churchmentally or physicallyand they aim to bring them back by making not fewer demands, but more.
"A lot of folks in my age group are hungry to do something; they just don't know what," said Brian Mosley, 25. He founded Rightnow, a Plano, Texas, organization five years ago when he was still a student at Baylor University. Its goal is to help connect young Christians with service opportunities. Rightnow has started sponsoring conferences to reach out to this demographic.
During the first conference, Heather Mercer, an American aid worker who spent three months in a Taliban prison (ct, July 8, 2002, p. 26), and Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney worked to energize some 2,000 20- to 30-year-olds at "Fusion+Dallas" in November. Participants spoke one-on-one with representatives at several booths set up by mission-sending agencies and other help organizations.
Fusion is one of several evangelical efforts focusing on the twentysomething age group. The Dallas conference included more than 130 Dallas-Fort Worth area churches, including Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and Church of Christ representatives. Founders took some inspiration from the Passion movement started in 1995 by Louie Giglio. That movement focuses more on worship and targets college students and a limited number of high-school seniors.
A Passion '05 gathering is set for January 2-5 in Nashville. Mosley's Rightnow organization had booths at earlier Passion events, including one last year in Sherman, Texas, that drew 60,000 students.
Such groups are seeking to recapture a generation of young adults. According to pollster George Barna and other researchers, these people have left the church in droves but yearn for an authentic faith that involves opportunities for service.
Former Taliban hostage Dayna Curry told Christianity Today that her generation grew up affluent and had more experiences, such as global travel, than their parents. Now in Waco, Mercer and Curry help train missionaries and have established a nonprofit called Hope Afghanistan. It is funded with $1.5 million raised from their speeches and their book, Prisoners of Hope.
Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, said such gatherings support some of her research.
"I found there is a growing sort of weariness with materialism with many young adults, a hunger for God," said Campbell, a fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
Steve Moore worked with younger adults at Baylor and now is senior vice president at Asbury Theological Seminary. Moore said those in the 20 to 30 age bracket "have lived in a world where things happen quicker, and they are concerned about how slow the institutional church moves."
Jim Mellado, president of the Willow Creek Association in South Barrington, Illinois, said young adults long to make the world a better place. A group of 18- to 30-year-olds in his church, called Axis, helps about 30 Chicago area organizations to aid the needy. Leaders on one occasion told everyone in the room to take off their shoes.
"Then they collected the shoes and took them to downtown Chicago to distribute them to the homeless," Mellado said.
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RightNow.org has articles on faith as well as 2,500 ministry opportunities.
Passion '05 has information about its conference in January, 2005, and other promotional material.
Willow Creek's church for young adults, Axis, has information about its programs.
More Christianity Today articles about youths in ministry from out Youth page includes:
God and the Water Slide | Christian camping is bigger than ever, but some rituals never change. (Aug. 29, 2003)
Decoding Generations | Two books are optimistic about the coming generations but for different, and sometimes contradictory, reasons. (April 4, 2001)
The Homeless VIPs | 'Third-Culture Kids' may be one of the most neglected, and most influential, unreached people groups. (March 7, 2001)
Kingdom Prodigy | How an 8-year-old girl from Georgia began a community program that has fed thousands. (Dec. 7, 2000)
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