Tips for Keeping the Young Adult Generation in Church

In the final section of You Lost Me by David Kinnaman, he brings in a variety of church leaders to offer advice on what it would need to look like to keep the young emerging generation in the church. Consequently, the section is a bit more fragmented than the rest. This post will be similarly fragmented. Here are some of my favourite ideas and a brief commentary of my own.

Three Principles

But first, Kinnaman pinpoints three overarching principles that he saw throughout his research. First and most importantly in my opinion, the emerging generation is driven primarily by relationship. In each section that Kinnaman suggested a turn from one attitude to its solution, at the root of the change was the introduction of a relational dimension. As I try to pound home a lot in this blog, relationship is at the heart of absolutely everything. In the age of shallow technological connections, we crave real, deep human connection. The church’s primary job should be to provide that and let the other things like theology flow out of that.

The second he points out is the principle of rediscovering vocation. Most young people don’t have a clue what they should be doing. I’m not, and he’s not, just talking about job choice. There’s a reason that Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life was second only to the Bible for bestseller in the U.S. for a few years after its release. We’re starving for purpose because we aren’t getting satisfaction from what society tells us we are supposed to get satisfaction from: owning more stuff or more high-quality stuff, sex, a high-paying job, fame, etc. Our generation is desperate, even if we don’t always realize it, but a lot of the church is failing to help.

Lastly, Kinnaman talks about re-prioritizing wisdom. This is in contrast to prioritizing information, the goal of modernism with its strive for pure objective truth no matter what the relational cost. Sometimes the cost of information for its own sake is simply not worth it. Wisdom helps us determine how to live in such a way that creates a better world. As we live in the Information Age, not the Wisdom Age, this is absolutely vital to provide the alternative by caring about depth and real-world change instead of sheer knowledge.

Some of the Ideas

Be Honest: relationship doesn’t get very far if you can’t be honest including about disagreements and about struggles. Related to that, Confess.

Preach a Better Gospel: Don’t settle for a get-out-of-Hell free card. Following Jesus means living the Kingdom that he inaugurated.

Take Risks: Following Jesus isn’t easy. Stop watering it down so that it becomes that way. Jesus told us to pick up our crosses. That’s inevitably going to hurt sometimes.

Centre on Jesus: Not just God. Not just Christianity. Not the church or your particular denomination. Look at Jesus. Everything goes back to him.

Be a Rebel – Get Married: Ok, so I don’t like that this could come across as demeaning to singles. Both Jesus and Paul praised the single life. But pick one way or another. Don’t just hang out by dating a lot but never choosing to really invest your life in another the way that the commitment of marriage demands.

Think Christianly About Media: I’m hoping my Theology At The Movies series helps model this. You don’t need to run away from media but you also shouldn’t be mindlessly consuming either. Somewhere in between is a healthy engagement with the world which allows us to transform culture instead of it transforming us.

Disciple Like Jesus: Focus on a few people. When you go for breadth, having 1 pastor for a 200 person church, none of those people are going to develop a faith with any depth.

Seek Diversity: Go out of your way to relate to people different than you.

Be Nonpartisan but Not Apolitical: Pretty much the Anabaptist motto. Be involved in the world but always remember your ultimate allegiance is not to a nation or to a political party; your ultimate allegiance is to Jesus.

Avoid False Ultimatums: Many churches rely on threats to keep people “in line.” We lose Christians because of it and I really don’t think the ultimatums such as science vs faith even have any basis.

Don’t Fear Doubt: See the last post in this series on The Doubtless Church.

Share Power: At the heart of the Gospel is that the all-powerful God gave up his power to become a human, going through everything we go through including one of the worst deaths humanity has ever conceived. We are to do likewise.


That’s it for my series on You Lost Me by David Kinnaman. Let me know if you have more questions and I recommend picking up the book for yourself, especially if you’re in church leadership.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.