I’m writing this editorial on my birthday. My change in age doesn’t make me old enough to be Sean’s mother, but listening to him wittering on about hashtags and retweets and trending and so on felt strangely reminiscent of the time I tried to teach my grandma how to send text messages, just the wrong way round. I’m slowly improving my Twitteracy (is that a thing, I have no idea?), but Sean’s lesson proved to me that the 20-somethings, let alone the 20- and 30-somethings, are not a homogenous group. Nonetheless, there are some characteristics which define the generation – one of the most striking being how few of them go to church. Johanna Derry’s feature, Recapturing Generation Y, is sobering reading. It made me sad about my friends and peers who don’t know God, often because they’ve had scarring experiences of church as young people, or, more depressingly, think religion is totally irrelevant to their lives. So what’s going on for this generation? The changes you go through in your twenties are massive. Many go from being impoverished student to having a successful career, free and single to married with kids, and renting a room to owning a house… Or do they? That’s what we think is supposed to happen, but for many it’s not the case at all. People are single for longer. Many have struggled to find employment and are still at home with parents or renting a room with flatmates. In fact, many of us end up getting older without having any of the traditional markers to prove to the world that we have grown up. We’re struggling to know who we are, and what our place in the world should be, and yet very few of us have made the connection between finding that identity and finding God.
So how can churches help? Johanna’s feature shows that what Generation Y values above all else is authenticity. You won’t win many of them over by rushing to make judgemental pronouncements about lifestyle choices (for most of my non-Christian friends it is the absolute norm to sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend and get drunk at the weekends), but you will if you can create a space where totally honest sharing is rewarded with love and acceptance. For the Generation Y-ers in churches already, they need to be allowed to take the reins and innovate. I’m eternally grateful to have found a church community where I’ve been encouraged to get stuck in – to discover and develop my gifts, to have ideas, to fail at projects. My contribution matters, and that revelation transformed my faith. I hope this feature encourages you to think about how well your church provides a home for 20s and 30s. Would you welcome fresh vision and leadership from them, or are you expecting them to fall in with the way things have always been done? Could you listen and ask questions, without judgement, as they talk about things which may not be in line with your values? What one thing could you do to point a somewhat rudderless generation in the direction of God?
On a different note I’m delighted to welcome experienced journalist Heather Tomlinson to Christianity. As a fellow female, Anglican, violin-playing vegetarian, it’s a real step forward for diversity in our office. She’s already has a significant impact on the mag – you can see the fruits of her labours on the news pages and in The Transforming Power of Meditation (p34). We’re a new team, so let us know your feedback. You can email, write by snail mail, or even, because I more or less get how it all works now, find us @Christianitymag