Do Churches Still Appeal to 20-somethings?

This week I was in the field doing a case study of a Catholic parish known for its outreach to 18-29 year-olds.  This research is part of a national study examining the “Changing Spirituality of Emerging Adults” (www.changingsea.org).  What is it that attracts 18-29 year-olds to congregations?  We hear a lot about why 20-somethings are *less* religiously-involved than other age groups, but not nearly as much about why they remain.
 
My conversations with emerging adult parishioners led to some surprises.  I thought perhaps a parish that attracted this age cohort would be more progressive, more social-justice minded, more relaxed in its interpretation of the faith.  But my findings in the field hint at the opposite: could it be that orthodoxy – a more rooted faith in a relativistic world – is what draws young people to religion?  This would make sense within a religious economies approach (= the higher the cost, the greater the reward).  You can rock the music, tweak the technology, and bend the rules, but maybe it’s the hard line and unwavoring presentation of a historical truth that intriques 18-29 year-olds just enough to keep them coming back.
 
Check www.changingsea.org in the coming months for more on this case study and the findings of others throughout the U.S.

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