20-Somethings Cite Many Reasons for Disconnect
An important factor influencing young people today is the cultural context in which they live. No other generation of Christians, he affirmed, has lived through so many profound and rapid cultural changes, Kinnaman argued.
During the last few decades there have been massive changes in the media, technology, sexuality and the economy. This has led to a much greater degree of complexity, fluidity and uncertainty in society.
Summing up these changes, Kinnaman used three concepts to describe them: access, alienation and authority.
Regarding access he pointed out that the emergence of the digital world has revolutionized the way in which young adults communicate with each other and obtain information. This has led to significant changes in the way in which the current generation relates, works and thinks.
This has a positive side, in that the Internet and digital tools have opened up immense opportunities to spread the Christian message. However, it also means there is more access to other cultural views and values and it invites people to question more their beliefs. There is also less emphasis on linear and logical thought.
Alienation, Kinnaman observed, means that many teens and young adults feel isolated from their families, communities and institutions. High levels of divorce and childbirth outside marriage mean many have grown up in non-traditional family structures.
Moreover, the transition to adulthood has stretched out, with marriage and parenthood being put off to a later age. Many churches do not have the pastoral solutions in place to effectively help those who are not following the traditional path to adulthood, according to Kinnaman.
In addition, many young adults today are skeptical about the institutions that in the past have shaped society. Grassroots networks and collaborative efforts are prized over hierarchical institutions.
This skepticism becomes then a distrust of authority, the third concept used by Kinnaman. A tendency to pluralism, and even holding conflicting ideas, takes precedence over acceptance of Scripture and moral norms.
A culture of questions can lead people to the truth, and tension between faith and culture can also have a positive outcome, but, Kinnaman noted, it requires new approaches by churches.