Christians growing up in the consumerist generation need help to maintain their faith and live for Jesus as they transition to adulthood, said evangelical leaders at a recent symposium.
They were responding to the results of a survey of young Christians which were unveiled during the Evangelical Alliance council symposium on mission among 18- to 30-year-olds, the so-called "missing generation."
The survey of 800 young Christians at a Soul Survivor conference found that most were drawn to a church that could provide resources to help them in their own personal faith, followed by one which provided excellent worship or was a place where they could relate to the people.
The characteristics least likely to attract them to a church were being mission-orientated or a safe place to invite friends.
Addressing the council, Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi said that a culture of consumerism, individualism and entitlement had “eaten into the psyche of 20-somethings.”
“What that mitigates against completely is commitment to community,” he said.
Pilavachi added that 20-somethings were caught in a futile search for perfection, were afraid of going into the real world and showed a great deal of pain in ministry times.
“We’ve got to help them,” he said. “We’ve got to love them, we’ve got to listen to them, but also we’ve got to find ways of gently, lovingly but definitely challenging some of the things that come from a culture of consumerism, individualism and entitlement.”
Gavin Calver of Youth for Christ and Tim Rudge of UCCF told the symposium that the church had a responsibility to mentor and invest in young people as they made the transition from childhood to adulthood.
The symposium also heard from Jason Lane of Innovista who said that young Christians often felt like they had to choose between “a church that’s for me” and a “church that’s about mission.”
“For them, it’s actually a choice between surviving as a Christian or not,” he said. “We need to give them both, where church can support you as a Christian and helping you live for Jesus, which involves and includes mission.”
The symposium brought together around 100 people, including leaders of other youth ministries like Fusion, Ignite and The Message Trust.
The leaders also spoke of the role that the Evangelical Alliance had to play in helping churches to reach 18- to 30-year-olds.
General Director of the Evangelical Alliance Steve Clifford said the findings were a “wake-up call” to the church.
“As an alliance, we are committed to provoking conversation and all of us, across all ages, are ready to respond to this challenge,” he said.
The U.K.-based Evangelical Alliance plans to prepare a report on the discussions from the symposium and make recommendations for further action.