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Do you care about the missing emerging adults?

Will we lose an entire generation plus the next generation?

I attended a two-room school in a Nebraska farm town. Fantastic!

Farms were small. Families abundant.

The generations before me sacrificed for that opportunity. I’m deeply thankful!

I had the same teacher for five years in a row, Mr. Walter Brase.

The first time I told my kids, they thought…repeat…repeat…repeat….

No, it was 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th…all in the same classroom.

That was then. Now… Farms are bigger. Families fewer. Children scarcer. The school is closed. It rightly celebrated an enormously fruitful season completed. A necessary ending.

hope and courage quote

(Read more about Necessary Endings.)

Small town Lutheran schools are not the only things that have changed.

Today, most emerging adults no longer populate our churches! Their kids aren’t even around to engage in the simplest of rhythms of faith formation! They’re just gone!

And I’m confused by the muffled cry. Where are the sirens and bells and whistles going off across the entire church, screaming for change and courage and begging that we not lose an entire generation of emerging adults plus the next generation of their children?

They see our churches as irrelevant forts…ride in, ride out…. The stuff that happens inside our forts is viewed as having no value or being potentially harmful.

Institutions in general are mistrusted by emerging adults. Our churches are no different.

Count 60% of the community around your fort. Count more among emerging adults that mark the “irrelevant” box beside church forts in general.

Many of us as leaders shoulder guilt and carry frustration for attempted efforts to get them in the fort. For most of them, walking into our churches feels like walking in after a Haiti earthquake. It’s unsafe and unpredictable.

So take a look around your church this week. Ask the ushers to count the number of adults below the age of 35. In most churches they’re mostly gone. If your counting gets past one or two hands of fingers, then just know it’s tremendously better at your place than most.

In my own denomination, there are almost 4 pastors age 55-65 for every 1 pastor age 25-35.

Is anyone going to see the crisis in reaching emerging adults or telling the story of Jesus to their kids?

PLI believes it takes leaders…

  • riding outside their forts and demonstrating compassion.
  • Inviting people into community.
  • Representing Jesus and His life, death and resurrection.
  • Multiplying and discipling more leaders to do the same.

It’s not complex! It’s not a journey by yourself. It’s seeing the world through a different lens! And, it’s not quick, so start now.

My parents and grandparents and their generations sacrificed enormously for that two-room school. The sacrifice today is a willingness to act once you have the courage to look through a different lens.

So what if, rather than waiting for “them” to come in, we disciple “us” to go out in 2017 America? And what if we demonstrate compassion like Jesus did? And what if, outside our churches, we created communities where we could represent Jesus to the hearts of a chaotic world?

No magic bullet! Nor, no surrendered resignation!

Arik and Tina see the world through a different lens.

So, if you want to be bold…

  1. Pick out 3 or 4 leaders in your congregation. Ask them to listen to Arik and Tina. Ask them to join their Missional Leader ranks. Ask Raechel to email information.
  2. Have a Necessary Endings conversation with your leaders and risk Venturing into the Muddled Middle Ground. Lead together.
  3. Ask the Ushers to count the 25-35 crowd this Sunday. (They’re mostly gone in most churches!) Report it and say: “So, what do you want to do about it?”

PLI would welcome being your partner.

Dr. Jock Ficken

Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

3 Responses

  1. Arik Johnson says:

    Brother Jock,

    Thanks so much for your post and including our video! God continues drawing the whole world to Him and is sending us to clear pathways for His Amazing Grace! Tina and I have grown so much as missionaries for Jesus with PLI’s Missional Leader and the love and guidance from Jeff and Amy Meyer and Emily Powers, and too many others to call out by name, including our coaches and fellow cohort, with whom we’ve become such close friends… brothers and sisters in God’s Holy Family.

    Most importantly for lay people, it’s changed how we’re training up our own four kids to join God’s mission for Jesus as well, right now! There is nothing more urgent, nothing more important. God is leading us to concentrate more of our ministry on young people, sometimes really young people, and encourage them to take up Christ’s mission too; not later in life when they’re “ready” or “willing” either, Jesus calls us all NOW. In Jesus’ own words:

    Matthew 18:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)
    The Greatest in the Kingdom

    18 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

    2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

    5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[a] is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

    I reread these words many times a day as it reminds me where my focus should be. I give thanks for PLI and challenge all who are sent by Jesus and called according to His purposes to invest and grow through programs like Missional Leader. You won’t regret it.

    Abba Father, please send Your Spirit of Peace and Passion to all those who call you Lord and Savior. Guide their service and channel their love that this whole world might turn to you, one child at a time. In Jesus’ Name.

    With love in Christ,

    Arik & Tina Johnson

    • Sarah Greiner says:

      Arik and Tina, Thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt words. Your partnership in the Gosple is a joy and blessing!

    • Jock Ficken says:

      Thanks for your note. Gail and I love your vision and what you’re doing. What you’re doing is what needs to be multiplied hundreds and hundreds of times. Thanks.

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