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Congregation of One November 19, 2006

Posted by fajita in Christianity, Philosophy/Religion.
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Jeff Arnett studies what is called emerging adulthood, the age group from 18-25 who are mostly single and getting educated in college. Arnett’s study on emerging adult and religious beliefs is interesting, but not exactly shocking.

In short, emerging adults are not likely to swallow whole their parent’s religion. Furthermore, their is a sort of religious integration (syncretism) going on with this crew. They might be Christian, but that doesn’t keep some of them from believing in reincarnation and other eastern religious beliefs. They are not likely to have a strong or any allegiance worth noting to denominations and institutions (Mormons are going to be an exception here).

Interestingly enough, though, even though their religious practice on a corporate level is low, they do maintain that they are in some ways connected and still religious. So, they have not lost their religion so much as they have set it aside, perhaps in order to accomplish some other tasks – graduating from college and getting married.

Arnett’s study shows a big difference between married and non-married emerging adults. When the tasks of college graduation and marriage (having kids might be thrown in there) are accomplished, then religion seems to reappear from the back burner. However, it’s not the old time religion they are returning to, but rather a more losely affiliated and individualized religion. In fact, their personal religious faith and their corporate religious participation may be very different and at the same time pose no sense of dissonance. In a sense, they are a congregation of one.

Let this inform ministers and parents alike. There are powerful factors acting on the religious faith of adolescents who are moving into adulthood – and it’s not necesssarily that they are going to Hell in a handbasket. They are accomplishing some tasks required by our society. At the same time, the coherence of their faith is strained in many regards.

It could be that these emerigng churches who seem to do well with ambiguity and exploration might be a good home for these emerging adults. Comments?

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Comments»

1. bek - November 20, 2006

totally different subject, but how did u get those fajitas on your template? i’d like to do something like that for a friend’s blog….with a picture i have saved to my computer….is it hard?

2. Fajita - November 20, 2006

On wordpress there is a template called Romulus. It has a customizer option that allows for uploading pictures.

3. TCS - November 20, 2006

Hey, is it cold there?

and, sure those churches are going to appeal to them. Hardline churches will drive them away. Yet many in that age group think with double minds. They have a church way of thinking and then a everything else way of thinking. Its a weird thing to ask them about. They don’t see a problem with that.

4. greg brooks - November 20, 2006

I don’t know. . . . Maybe it’s just a quirk of language, but ‘religious’ is the theme of this post, not ‘faith’. If a church is pointing to ‘faith’ rather than ‘religion,’ will that turn emerging adults off–just like that has turned most of humankind off for all of human history?

5. Steve Allison - November 20, 2006

“It could be that these emerigng churches who seem to do well with ambiguity and exploration might be a good home for these emerging adults. Comments?”

Looking at this quote, I think they got it right and I wish my cohort would learn from it. I hope the emerging adults don’t wander back to a past evangelicalism but continue to create something new.

6. fajita - November 21, 2006

First of all, it is not as cold up here as it ought to be. 55 or Thanksgivig Day – a potential record high.

I think it was the modern day prophetess Nritney Spears who said it best, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” This is the theme of these emerging adults. They really can’t be considered adults in that they really don’t even consider themselves adults, but to consider them late adolescence is all wrong too.

They are in a sort of developmental limbo – a prolonged non-full fledged adulthood, with the luxury (and burden) of having tons of freedom and no external need (marriage, children, job) to commit to anything. There is a sort of moratorium on life. they have a strong sense of will and no need to place it anywhere. They are in a sense free to explore and experiment and take risks with the cost coming out only on their own heads.

This may be the perfect storm in many regards. At the same time, it can be a time deepening. It should come as no surprise that they are “double-minded” as the case may be. They have no real reason to have a coherent and logical life. It costs them nothing (from a relational perspective) to wonder and wander. And when they are attacked for being double-minded, illogical, and so forth, their response is to assert their will more deeply into their illogic.

These emerging adults need places where exploration is affirmed, experimentation is practiced by prominent people, and religious dogma is diminished. They need a place where they can be different and accepted at the same time. Most churches don’t offer these options. Nonconformers are not accepted. The emerging church is a place where people who have grown up Christian can land (or at least take a pit stop) in their spiritual journey.


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