It’s a question many are asking as leaders in ministry: What can the church do to continue being an effective witness to a generation that seems increasingly disconnected from the local church? Adaptive evangelism has been ministry’s challenge as each of us is called to learn the culture around us to effectively relate the gospel as Paul did at Mars Hill after observing the Athenian culture (Acts 17). Of course, there is no fix-all evangelistic solution that applies to every situation. However, I find that the book Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched And The Churches That Reach Them by Stetzer, Stanley and Hayes provides an effective range of sociological and practical insights useful for ministry leaders as they fulfill the gospel commission today.
In 2009, Ed Stetzer along with researchers Richie Stanley and Jason Hayes concluded their collaborative study on young adult sociological trends. The authors drew from two recent major research studies of young adults (led by Stanley and Hayes) in their attempt to objectively understand the cultural shift happening in North America today. In addition to their qualitative research, they went and surveyed churches successfully involved in engaging young adult communities around them. They sought for real and tangible answers. While many are crying out in alarm at the negative trends in contemporary culture, this group of authors set out to provide support to ministry leaders looking for a starting point to practical positive change. Stetzer Stanley and Hayes’ (2009) stated purpose for writing was to know: “Who are the young unchurched and how can they be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ” (p.3)?
I found Lost and Found to be an engaging and easy to read manuscript. The book progresses through three distinct phases of discourse. Each follows as a logical progression of the former. Ministry leaders will appreciate the author’s straightforward approach because of their comprehensive yet concise presentation.
The first section of the book is somewhat of a reader’s primer to the realities of young adult values and relationships to church, God, and Christians. The authors present a wealth of valuable information as collected by their research. However, they do not belabor the reader with statistical intricacies and complex research reporting. The most pertinent details are relayed along with their relevant meaning to ministry leaders. From their presentation of the facts of emergent young adult culture, the authors give attention to specific values young adults have in relation to young adult ministry. They present four common factors ministry leaders can develop in order to better bridge the gap to young adults. Based on those four common factors, the book then finishes with ways churches are currently incorporating the core young adult values into their ministry.
I found Lost and Found a useful resource in fostering my visioning process for young adult ministry. The knowledge base shared, along with the practical examples of application, has provided me with a starting point for my ministry. While I appreciated the research data, ministry focus insights, and application examples, I liked even better the fact that Lost and Found is not some sort of ‘formula’ book. The authors advise without prescribing. This, in turn, left me feeling encouraged and educated enough to continue on in ministry with practical problem solving vision.
Lost and Found is not an in depth analysis of statistical trends, or an idealistic conceptualization of what young adult ministry could and should look like. I found this book to be a well grounded, honest, and realistic foundation to a life spent as a spiritual shepherd: seeking the lost.
by Kasper Haughton, Jr.
Previously serving as a worship leader and youth pastor in the South Pacific and North American Division, Kasper Haughton, Jr. is currently a graduate student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University. You can view his blog and website links at about.me/kasperjr.