Friday, September 21, 2012

Using Religious Ceremonies as Outreach Tools – Part Four

This week I have been writing a series of posts about how churches can use religious ceremonies as a bridge to reaching young people. (You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.) It is important to point out that young adults are looking for spiritual experiences that will actually help them find a meaningful relationship with God. They are not interested in taking part in religious rituals that are empty or meaningless.

Many young people are filled with despair and are confused about what direction their lives should take. This despair and confusion can only be overcome by the power of Jesus Christ. As young adults experience Christ’s love, He cleanses, restores, renews, and sets them on the right path. Preparing young adults to take part in various religious ceremonies is a perfect way to help them think deeply about these issues and contemplate how spirituality can help them becomes victors instead of victims. It is only through such deep thinking and inward reflection that they will find the spiritual strength they need to survive the harsh world that is now their constant reality.
Though some young adults may take advantage of the church by using it’s ceremonies without making a real commitment, this new generation of young people seems more willing to think and reflect on a deeper level than the previous generation. While many members of the Great Generation were thinkers, the Baby Boomers were not nearly as deep. However, the grandchildren of the Baby Boomers are rediscovering the value of contemplation. The next generation is surrounded by difficulties and calamities at every turn. Family problems, financial difficulties, political turmoil, addictions, pornography, climate change, terrorism, and physical and sexual abuse are all issues that today’s young adults deal with intellectually and emotionally on a regular basis.  The difficulties they face may explain why so many young adults are filled with despair and confusion. It also explains their desire to develop a spiritual dimension through meaningful religious ceremonies.

When church leaders do suspect a particular individual is only looking for a place for his or her ceremony, such as a wedding, but is not really interested in furthering his or her spiritual walk, those leaders must not be afraid to point out the fine line between spiritual exploration and simply taking advantage of a church. Nothing is wrong with holding people accountable who are trying to gain access to spiritual benefits without accepting personal responsibility. More and more young adults are willing to engage in enough contemplation to make a decision about spiritual things, especially if they grew up in even a nominally religious home. Therefore, instead of making religious ceremonies the barrier that keeps young adults out of church, we can make it the bridge that draws them in.

The above article is adapted from Terry Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks.

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