As the disturbing statistics of declines in baptisms of the 18-34 age group continue, Oklahoma Baptists are working to turn the tide in keeping those young adults in church and bringing in more of that age group.
“As we examine what we have learned about lostness in Oklahoma, it is clear we are finding little success with the 20-somethings and even the 30-somethings,” said Randy Adams, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Church Outreach Team leader.
Adams said when Chris Forbes, evangelism marketing specialist, left the team in September, the team began assessing the most pressing needs in evangelism to determine the future course.
The new direction moves Cris Lowery, campus ministries specialist, to the job of emerging generations evangelism specialist.
Adams said the work Forbes did has been dispersed throughout the team.
“We believe our present evangelism staff can continue the evangelistic research begun with the expertise of Chris Forbes,” Adams said.
In his new job, Lowery will be developing resources churches can use before and after evangelism events to maximize their effectiveness.
“Events produce a lot of professions of faith, but few active disciples,” Adams observed. “And churches often find difficultly following up on new believers and teaching them to be Christ-followers.”
Lowery said this age group thinks differently than previous generations.
“They often see the church as being judgmental, full of angry people, and may even connect evangelicals to politics,” he said. “They love Jesus, but aren’t necessarily interested in the church.”
Lowery indicated he will meet with several pilot churches over the next few months, and look at the characteristics of these young adults, and how the church can best reach them and keep them.
“These emerging young adults are very relational and want mentoring relationships,” he pointed out. “They are socially active, and want to change the world, but don’t see the church as a viable place to do it. They also have a deep interest in Bible study, want to understand the cultural aspects of the Bible and want to discuss it. But they don’t want someone else to teach the application; they want to be a part of drawing their own conclusions.”
Lowery said the goal is to grab hold of those handles and design a part of the church to connect to that age group.
“We want to keep what we have, but at the same time, make it attractive to bring others in,” he said. “We need to find those characteristics we can build into the church, and add elements that will make it their church. What are the key elements to put in church that will bring them and keep them?”
“These young adults need to do what they want to do, and that is serve people, but they need the guidance and mentorship of the church,” said Adams. “We have to take an active role in helping them to learn.”
Adams said people have acknowledged the decline in this age group for 20 years.
“But it hasn’t changed, it has gotten worse,” he said. “It’s time to do something about it.”