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Lost and Found Kindle Edition
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Ed outlines the purpose of the book by saying -
"This is a book about who the younger unchurched are and how to reach them. Yes, that may be a little old school. Many authors and speakers want to focus on fascinating and important questions like what is wrong with our belief system, how can we do this differently, and what will the future look like for churches? I have asked questions like that myself, and I will do more of that in my next book. But, in this book, Richie, Jason, and I are asking one simple question: Who are the young unchurched and how can they be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ? (OK, that's two questions.) " Lost and Found, p. 3.
And, if you think you know everything about this group, think again. They are amazingly spiritual, open to talking about spiritual matters, bugged by Christians, think about eternity, believe in God, sort of believe Jesus is special, and want to make a difference.
And, just to get you going here, a majority of younger adults wouldn't like it if your church doesn't ordain women, or doesn't welcome homosexuals. And you thought this was going to be easy, didn't you? But the authors give you some ways to address the gender and sexuality issues with this generation.
Based on three large surveys of 1,000 18-29 year olds selected intentionally to reflect the diversity of their generation, the authors are quick to state that there is no one profile that embodies all 18-29 year olds. Respondents included whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics in proportions consistent with the greater U. S. population.
The book divides into three main sections:
1. Polling. This is the data and rationale of the survey including who they are, what they believe, and how they feel about God, church, religion, and Christians.
2. Listening. Four characteristics of this group emerged as the authors surveyed and talked with them. Young unchurched adults want community, depth, responsibility, and connection. More on these later.
3. Reaching. This is the longest section of the book, and spotlights real churches who are effectively reaching significant numbers of young unchurched adults. Surprisingly, the authors discovered that the young unchurched attended both alternative churches with really cool names, and more traditional First Church-types that blended generations in nurturing, mentoring, and serving connections.
The book is crammed with statistics, examples, characteristics, and stories about the young unchurched. Several times I found my stereotyped assumptions of this group exploded by solid research. For instance, a higher percentage of adults under-30 believe there is a God, than adults over-30. And, those under-30 exceed their older counterparts in spirituality and openness to spiritual things.
Not surprisingly, the young unchurched are not all unchurched for the same reason. The book helpfully categorizes the younger unchurched into four groups:
1. Always unchurched. (Never involved)
2. De-churched. (Attended as a child)
3. Friendly unchurched. (Not hostile or angry at the church)
4. Hostile unchurched. (What it sounds like)
Those categories create a starting point in building relationships with younger adults who are unchurched. They are not all alike and a cookie-cutter approach will not be effective. Actually, programs are less effective because this group, regardless of their unchurched orientation, is seeking relationships.
And it is the relational aspect of the book that is most encouraging to me as a small church pastor. Reaching young adults is not about having a rock band (although some churches do); or about alternative worship (although some churches do that, too). Instead this generational group seeks relationship, community, and even cross-generational connections. As a matter of fact, the authors discovered that the majority of churches effectively reaching younger unchurched adults were doing so in a cross-generational context.
Lost and Found is not a how-to book for reaching young adults. It is rather a here's-what book -- here's what this generation is, here's what they want, and here's what churches are doing to reach them. Stetzer says they intentionally titled the book, Lost and Found in order to showcase churches that are finding these lost-to-the-church young adults, and finding them effectively.
If you want to gain some eye-opening insight into the world of 18-29 year olds, get some handles on who they are, and read stories of churches reaching them, Lost and Found is the book you need. Buy it, read it, talk about it; but better still, talk to some young unchurched adults yourself. Learn some basics from the book, then have coffee with a college student home on break, or a young married couple just starting out, or young adult in their first post-college job. Lost and Found can give you the background you need to start those conversations with young adults in your community. I imagine that's what Ed, and Richie, and Jason would really like to have happen.
Lost and Found explores what people aged 20-29, a group that is living life apart from church, believe and how churches can reach them. The book splits into three parts: Polling, Listening, and Reaching.
As a member of this age group, I thought their polling results were accurate albeit surprising. Extensive polling of hundreds of people revealed that most 20-somethings believe in the God of the Bible (over 75% I believe), believe Jesus died and rose again (roughly 65%), but believe that all gods are the same (some 90%).
The Listening part showed key "markers" of what people were looking for. The four listed were: Community, Depth (and Content), Responsibility, and Cross-Generational Connection. Immediately made sense to me and gave better insight to as why Mars Hill and Acts 29 connect so well with this generation and myself. This section really resonated with me.
The Reaching part gives examples of the churches who are doing this. As Stetzer states in the intro, they're not going to give you a magical formula to make this work. They're giving examples and ideas from people who are doing this.
Also included is a fictional story that weaves in at the end of chapters of composite characters. Thought it was a fun part of the book and was glad it didn't end with a happy ending. It just showed part of the journey.
As a guy who loves reading Ed's blog and has a great appreciation for his experience (planted churches in 3 cities, revived 2 dying churches, missiologist, statistician) and his heart (church planting here and abroad across all denominations and networks), I am obviously biased. But this is a great book for those who desire to see this generation of people reached.
So why should you buy the book? You should get this book to better understand the unchurched. The team has done some great research here that will help you as you move forward. You should get this book to find insights into how churches are reaching the unchurched. Stop sitting in staff meetings trying to reinvent the wheel. You need to find the right mix for your specific church and your community, but I believe this book provides some core elements that you will need to reach out.
Several things strike me about these books.
1. They are all written based on a healthy mixture of good data (research!) and objective, Spirit-led observation of reality around them, through relationship with those that are being written about.
2. They all provide biblically-based principals, rather than faddish methodologies, based on analysis of this research and observation.
3. They all come to approximately the same conclusions.
I feel that we would do well to listen up, especially since these books come from three different organizations from three different "corners of the church" (Barna Research Group, a large church in California, and LifeWay research), and therefore aren't simply creating an echo chamber of thought.
Of the four, I found this book to be the easiest to digest, with the most recent data, clearly stated methodologies and goals, with to-the-point analysis at the end of each chapter.
The book is an engaging read. A well structured balance of research based data, personal interview, and an engaging "true story" narrative that glues the concepts together with practical advice.
The book's introduction speaks well to its purpose:
Much has been written and said about younger adults and their view of church. You don't need a lot of research to tell you what you already know...
...this is not a prescripbe book with magical answers to the problems plaguing churches devoid of young adults. Each church we profile, like yours, is unique in setting, ministry, and calling...
...in this book [the authors] are asking one simple question: Who are the yong unchruched and how can they be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ? (OK, that's two questions)...
...We realize you do not need another book of statistics. But what we do need is something to help all of us engage an increasingly lost generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need tools that will help us seek and save those of this generation who are lost. As you read, our prayer is that you will be challenged to take action, so that the lost may be found.
After reading the book, it occurred to me that some churches DO need a book of statistics. It seems that even in our intuitive knowledge of the problem that Christianity is considered hypocritically judgmental, and concerned more with it's own organization than with people, we do little to help this situation, probably because we don't fully understand the problem.
We bristle at critiques that call us judgmental and hypocritical, saying that we're simply pointing out sin. We hide behind verses that tell us that the world is going to hate us.
We fail to realize that for some people that God brings into our sphere of influence, we are called to help heal years of hurt from past religious institutions.
We fail to acknowledge that some people simply aren't going to come to our church, no matter how cool our music is, how "casual" and "lingo free" we try to be, or how many "bring a friend to church sundays" we organize and exhort our people to.
The fact is that Jesus called us to go out among the lost.
I was shocked at the statistics that showed how little of a difference the "young unchurched" reported the style of music or service made in their decision to check out a church or not.
What matter to them are deep relationships and authentic community where it is safe to ask the hard questions without being told to "just have faith". Along with people who actually care enough about the community they are in to get involved in it, rather than simply protest it, picket it, bemoan it's fallenness, or simply huddle up an ignore it.
Read this book.
I was impressed by a few misconceptions that this book addressed. First, according to the research, the "sky is not falling" when it comes to the church and the younger generation. Church attendance among this age group has actually been on the increase since 2000. Another misconception was the importance of a contemporary musical style. When asked "What Can Churches Do?" only 31% of young adults agreed that "If music at church sounded similar to my favorite type of music, I would be more likely to attend." Three answers received greater agreement including presenting truth in an understandable and relatable way (63%), being cared about as a person (58%), and being willing to join a small group to learn more about the Bible and Jesus (46%). The final surprising insight was 91% agreed that they had "at least one close friend who considers himself or herself a Christian." This leads me to believe that as Christians, we can have a greater impact and influence than we really think.
Apart from presenting the raw data, the authors use two additional tools to help the reader digest the material. The first is a fictionalized account of a group of young adults and their faith journey. Each one represents one of the four generalized types of unchurch young adults: the always unchurched, the de-churched, the friendly unchurched, and the hostile unchurched. While I found these descriptions helpful, the fictional narrative was scattered and didn't do much to draw me in. Fortunately, it is more of "another way to say the same thing" and is not central to understanding the principles of the book. The other tool that the authors include is a "wrap-up" of each of the three major parts, giving you bullet point synopses of the major points. This was quite helpful and especially helped to re-focus the most important ideas after working through 50 or 60 pages of statistics.
The second section is entitled, "Listening" and is the result less of statistical analysis and more on one-on-one interviews. The fruit of these interviews led to four major "markers," to use an older church growth term, "felt-needs" of this generation. The four markers are community, depth, responsibility, and connection. I was expecting community and responsibility. Responsibility emphasized the need to take action on social issues - being socially responsible (i.e., with the environment, with the poor, Darfur, etc.). I was not expecting to see depth, though it was exciting to see it as a marker, as part of the popular church growth mantra has to do with keeping sermons simple and surface-level. I was also not expecting to see connection--connection being cross-generational ministry. This is something that has influenced my philosophy of ministry since my Taylor days-though when one thinks of reaching young adults, mixing them with older adults has often felt more like an idealistic principal more than one that might actually be attainable.
This section also starts to give some direction on how to reach young adults in these areas. In the chapter talking about community, several bullet points are listed in reference to using technology to help reach young adults in this area. I try to be up on technology, and in particular, how to leverage technology for the advancement of the church. The first few suggestions I was very familiar with: start a blog, have a private community for the church family, text prayer requests, be on facebook and myspace, and podcast your messages. The last two pushed me: put text message moments in your sermons, and have people instant message questions for discussion during the service. I think the authors are going in the right direction as communication and mobile phones are so integrated in the lives of the young adult generation. In most churches I've been something flashes on the screen to remind attendees to turn off their cellphones during the service--how awesome to totally turn that on its head and use the cellphone for a kingdom advantage!
The third and final section could be renamed, "9 Effective Habits of Highly Successful Churches Who Reach the Younger Unchurched." These nine habits include creating deeper community, making a difference through service, experiencing worship, conversing the content, leveraging technology, building cross-generational relationships, moving toward authenticity, leading by transparency, and leading by team. Instead of giving specific application points--i.e., giving you the "One" way to reach young adults--this book gives you a diversity of examples from churches across all across the country. Some churches you might have heard of, others you probably haven't.
In Lost and Found Stetzer, Stanley, and Hayes, definitely contribute to the Church, as resources in this area are few-and because of the nature of something called time--call for a fresh look with each generation. They do not give you a step-by-step guide on how to reach the younger unchurched. They don't give you the blueprint. They don't do the thinking for you. They give you the situation and point you in the right direction. Reaching the younger unchurched is not going to happen by simply reading this book or by duplicating someone's methodology.
I was looking forward to the release of this book and would definitely recommend it to pastors as well as the young adult Sunday School teacher. The question for most will be, how much change without doctrinal compromise am I willing to make in order to reach the next generation with the Gospel?
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