Uber, a ride-share company based in San Francisco, Calif., made the headlines recently because of allegations of systemic sexual harassment and gender bias. A study revealed a company culture that accepted bad behavior as normal and regularly dismissed complaints from employees about those issues.
Since the allegations went public, more than 20 employees have been let go. Even the CEO has stepped down. They discovered too late the old adage, “We have found the enemy, and it is us.”
This story has implications for our church. We can no longer ignore statistics that show our Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America is aging. Our older, wiser members are precious to our church and essential to our God-given mission. However, we have a generational crisis that is not adequately being addressed. We are failing to adequately incorporate young adults into church ministry and mission.
We should take a long and serious look at the large number of young adults who have left and are currently leaving our churches. Credible research now suggests many of these young adults will not likely return.
Friends, we are talking about our children and grandchildren. We desire better for them! God expects better from us.
I believe Jesus Christ is pointing this union, each of our conferences and all Northwest churches to be courageous in reengaging young adults — not just to occupy a pew, but to invest time, energy and passion in the mission of the everlasting gospel. Do we have the courage to face our failings and make the needed growth?
The biggest area of growth we must pursue is in relationships. Recent research reveals the lack of meaningful relationships with adults in the church, especially those who are leaders, is a major reason why young adults leave the church. Wow! Could it be that something as simple as building relationships would help stem the tide of young adults leaving our churches? Yes! This is not the only issue needing to be addressed, but it’s a big one.
Yet let me caution you that effective ministry to young adults will not be easy. We are what we repeatedly do. For too long many of our churches have not responded to the needs of young adults. Over time, this behavior, where not corrected, has become the norm — “the way we’ve always done it.”
The good news is that behavior can be changed. When we focus on Christ and on our mission as His disciples, we can form new positive behavior under the tutelage of His Spirit.The apostle Paul understood this: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:18). It is possible, through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, for our churches to minister effectively to and with young adults.
It takes courage to face our failings. If we do, I believe it will not only make an eternal difference for our young adults, but for every generation. The Lord's message to Joshua as he faced his greatest uncertainty is for us as well: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).