1,000,000 or a Name


An RCA colleague of mine and I were just in Pasadena California attending a symposium hosted by the Fuller Youth Institute looking at the future of the church. The research they shared with us (and all things being equal) was that by the year 2050, American churches may potentially lose 33,000,000 emerging adults.

That number works out to 1,000,000 children walking away from the church per year.

Whether you believe that or not, I’d like us to pause and dream for a moment. Let’s drill down a bit and think, not about the million, but think about…

  • Joe, who just arrived back from university to spend the holidays with mom and dad. He hasn’t been in church for a while and is pretty nervous about stepping through the doors.
  • Samantha, who is working as a financial specialist and in the past has had some issues with the women-in-office conversations her church had a few years back. Sam isn’t sure if she feels at home anymore in her parent’s church, but wishes she could.
  • Tom, who is dealing with some significant anxiety in his life, wrestling with big questions like, “Who am I?” and "What is my purpose here?”

I came home from the event thinking a lot about the church, both on the macro and the micro levels. I am convinced, something has to change. I know some of the Joe’s, Samantha’s and Tom’s in my church and some outside. And I am also convinced that we cannot look at the “numbers” and be satisfied until we get to know the “names.”

So, let’s do this: 

  • This Advent and Christmas season let’s reach out to our emerging adults and get to “know” them. Open a space at your table for one of them who does not have a space elsewhere.
  • This Advent and Christmas season, say hello to that teen you see at church every week but never connect with because you need to deal with that committee issue.
  • This Advent and Christmas season, pray for your youth volunteer leader/pastor/director because they need your support and prayers.
  • This Advent and Christmas season, ask one of these the above persons the question, “If you built a church, what would it be like?”
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Thanks for sharing what you learned at the conference, Ron. Thanks also for the reminder to all of us to brighten our eyes and welcome the teens and young adults in our midst this Christmas, particularly those who may be returning to church for the holiday for a variety of reasons. I once saw a young adult at my church extend exactly that kind of welcome to another young adult who was back from university. He did it in the three simple steps described here.  I hope those steps are repeated in churches across North America this year:)


Thanks for those three steps Karen. I pray churches can use them every Sunday.