From Our Ministerial InternOne of the top ten Public Service Announcements in American television dates to the 1960s, '70s and '80s. "It's 10 o-clock ... do you know where your children are?" In my days of setting and enforcing curfews for my children, 10 o-clock became 11 o-clock and then midnight. My children became teens, then emerging and full young adults, on their own. Now, well...... I have no idea where they are on any given night at 10, 11 or midnight, though the absence of emergency phone calls assures me all is well.
I do know, however, that when 10 o-clock arrives on a Sunday morning ... they are not attending church. Not that I can blame them or don't understand. I well remember being in my 20's and 30's and preferring long brunches with friends or hunkering down into the early afternoon with the Sunday New York Times.
I remember young adulthood being a time of uncertainty, exploration, and slow but steady growth and maturity on many fronts: questioning my personal identity, pursuing educational and career options, taking steps to become financially independents, navigating the ups and downs of friendships, relationships and family relations All while wrestling with ultimate questions of reality, something we all seem to do throughout our entire lives.
Young adults today do the same as they become their best and authentic selves and find their place in the greater world. I believe, though, that today's young adults have a new playing field with different hurdles: real or anticipated burdens of student debt, fewer viable career options, and worsening economic inequity; greater political unease on the home and global front; more diverse workplaces and communities rapidly evolving technology that tempts becoming over-connected electronically and dis-connected socially. And, to top it off, the shadow cast by climate change over decisions to be made of significant future importance: where to settle, whether to bring children into the world and, if so, how many?
And so, I am pleased and inspired that we do have some wonderful young adults among us in this congregation. To you of whom I speak, knowing the many demands on your time, it seems to me your presence here testifies to the promise and gifts Unitarian Universalism and congregational life have to offer. I know I am not alone in feeling blessed by your presence and involvement at CUUC.We know young adults, in general, are not joining organizations and churches as readily as older generations. The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, from the Pew Research Center, confirms a general decline in religious participation and "much lower levels of religious affiliation" among Millenials (ages 18-34) than other generations across all faiths.
Young adults are under-represented in UU congregations (p. 8): 11% of congregants, versus 21% of the overall US population in 2008. And, the number of UU Young Adult Groups and Campus Ministries has declined from a high of 250 in 2002 to about 130 today.
Reflecting society's individualistic and consumerist mindset, young adults browse, shop at and hop into faith communities, after vetting their choices online, before deciding to attend regularly or commit to joining a congregation like ours. I learned last Sunday that the percentage of Millenials in White Plains is growing. When these and other young adults come through our doors seeking a spiritual "home," how can we ensure that they will find it here? And, following the welcome, how can we integrate young adults fully into congregational life?
My efforts to convene our new Young Adult Gatherings and explore the feasibility of campus connections is one response we're taking to support our young adults, and reach and serve others in the area. Your role is equally important: To cultivate a culture of welcome and full participation of people of all generations, and to strive towards the highest aspirations of our mission, vision, shared values and best practices for healthy, vibrant congregations.
As the clock nears 10 or 11 o-clock, take a moment to consider .... who are the young adults here you've been meaning to get to know better? Who are the ones you've been meaning to invite to church?