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Books on Ministry to 20s & 30s – Descriptive vs Prescriptive Approaches

February 14th, 2012 · No Comments · 20s & 30s, Christianity, Ministry

There are dozens of books that talk about the generation gap in the church and how we have lost our young people and young adults. What I am seeing more and more is that there is no shortage of books that are descriptive in nature. By that I mean you can find a dozen books that tell you who these guys are, how they behave and what they believe. The better books go on to talk about the why. Why have they left and why aren’t we reaching them? (as Eric Brown has said repeatedly the answer to those two questions is really the same). Authors have covered the people and the problem until we are blue in the face.

We can describe things all day long. We can talk about the problem, identify the problem, understand everything about who they are and why they are gone but what are we going to do about it? Maybe the book is already out there. There are dozens and dozens  of books on this topic, so more than likely people have taken a stab at this. If you know of any please let me know. But the feeling I get is much of the work that has been done on this has been more like a zoology student reading about animals, their anatomy, diet, and habits rather than actually going to spend time with the animals.

The missing piece in all of this is the prescriptive component. We need people to get the word out on what is actually working. Those who are in the trenches and have seen spiritual transformation take place and who have seen those who had gone away come back and have reached out with success need a platform to talk about those experiences and to help others in leadership and ministry positions understand what is actually working and why it is working. It is time we stop crunching numbers (hard for me to say after taking 50 hours of stats in college) and get into the lives of these people to help draw them back to God.

If you work with young adults and would like to share thoughts on what you have seen work and why you believe it has worked please let me know. I am going to have a series of guest posts on this topic and hopefully from that discussion people can move beyond understanding the people and the problem and move on to what is really working.


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  • kurt bennett

    Matt, I’m so glad to see you post that question. Like many of us, I’ve been searching for the answers myself. So far the one thing I have seen 20 and 30 somethings respond to has been career mentorship. David Kinnaman in his book “You Lost Me” talks about how in 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men had left home, finished school, become financially independent, married, and had their first child before the age of 30. Now it’s only 46% of women and 31% of men.

    Many in this age group are searching for their career path, and some of the 30 somethings are even desperately searching for their career path. By first building relationships through helping/mentoring those in their 20s and 30s in their carerrs, I’ve found that they become open to reconciliation or a deepening of their relationship with Christ.

    • mattdabbs

      I intended to read that book very soon. I have heard it is a good read.

      • kurt bennett

        It is definitely worth a read, although it is, as you say, more descriptive than prescriptive.

      • kurt bennett

        Matt, I’d like to correct a previous comment I made regarding the book “You Lost Me.” I’m now at the very end in a chapter titled, “Ideas for Everyone.” It’s waaaay prescriptive! In fact, I would call this a must read for someone in your position. There are 50 ideas listed on how to reach 20 and 30 somethings.

        Great PRESCRIPTIVE book.

        I highly recommend it.

  • Jim Miller

    ok…some thoughts…I’ve been seeking solutions to many of these questions for years. So, here a a few hit and miss ideas.
    * 90% of all “Christians” (believers of all denominations) QUIT attending church after a divorce. Most never come back and their children go with them.
    * >50% C of C college age quit attending church when they leave home.
    * 50.5% of our population is single.
    * 26% of our population has never married and many will not.

    Been teaching these stats (and updating with continued research) and the #’s are worse…

    I strongly believe that the current 20’s and 30’s have been failed by a generation of weak, detached parents….That said, what can we do?

    The Christian Chronicle ran a recent article that discussed intergenerational ministry. I think that is where the answer lies. For 15 years I have been told that Christians Singles of all ages will not fellowship. the old don’t want to fool with the young, the divorced and single parents don’t belong with grandpa and grandma.

    Inject a little bible wisdom from Titus 2:1-6. The older teach the younger and the younger respect the older.

    IF:…. instead of all activities being split into Senior Saints/ Married Couples/ College Age etc….

    How about an all ages (Quarterly) paintball… night……community work day???

    Conservative older Christians have a responsibility to invite younger believers to singings or fellowship opportunities and the younger (being stronger of back) can lead in physical service opportunities. Every nursing home and Senior Center has neglected Christians who need communion served or a visit. Every single mom needs a “fill in” grandma to spend time with the kids. It is ALL ABOUT mentoring and being mentored.And, enough of this silly bickering about old songs and new songs and such. Let’s spend time with our younger adults sharing NEW experiences.

    BTW, please add my link. Your folks become my folks soon enough! And thanks for tackling this dilemma…..

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