Many of us have imbibed the theory that emerging adults, roughly those who are 18-29, are flocking away from the church and that the church needs to awaken to a potential crisis. I can think of books by Gabe Lyons and Dave Kinnamon (UnChristian), by Dan Kimball (They Like Jesus But Not the Church), and by the Princeton professor Robert Wuthnow (After the Baby Boomers). Much of what these authors have said abides, but Christian Smith (with Patricia Snell) has now entered the fray with some serious statistics that contest some of the more impressionistic data we have been accustomed to. Smith’s book is called Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults
, and it already ranks for me as a potential book of the year for 2010.
We need to take a careful look at this seminal study because it will, I suspect, become the foundation for all serious study of emerging adults for at least a decade — it’s that significant of a study.
First, Smith and Snell are examining what Jeffrey Arnett calls “emerging adulthood,” and this category has nothing to do with the emerging movement or emergent village but with the broader trend in American and Western cultures: that those who are between 18 and 29 have become a new demographic group. This theory is becoming a consensus for the social sciences. It is a time of “maximizing options and postponing commitments” (5).
Here are the topics to be discussed in this book:
The best sketch I’ve yet seen of the cultural world of emerging adults…
Emerging adult religion in life course and historical perspective
Religious affiliations, practices, beliefs, experiences … and more … a wonderful sketch
Six major religious types of emerging adults
Religious trajectories from the teenage years
Religious faith and emerging adult life outcomes
There are some major, major shifts that emerge from this careful analysis of several thousand emerging adults and it contests some of the accepted theories that have become consensus for many of us.
Is it possible that emerging adults are not showing a trend of not attending church? Join us for this series. Better yet, buy the book and get your church leaders to discuss it.