Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lost and Found – Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, & Jason Hayes

©2009 B&H, Nashville

As much as I hate reading statistics and as hard as it is for me to search through research, I have been looking forward to this report/book for several months. Ed Stetzer and the guys over at LifeWay Research have been working on this compilation for a few years. The result is more examination of how to reach the younger generations. Lost and Found walks pretty much hand in hand with books like Simple Church (B&H, 2006), Essential Church (B&H, 2008), and UnChristian (Baker, 2007).

Divided into three parts, the authors use their research to introduce us to (1)what the younger generation looks like [younger generation is defined as the twenty-something crowd of which many have been identified as unchurched or even de-churched], (2)the mainstays (four pillars) of what it takes to reach this generation, and finally (3)a survey of the commonalities among the churches that are in fact reaching this generation.

Part I is filled with charts and graphs and tables and statistician-speak that is always difficult to muddle through for readers like me. However, this is the necessary groundwork from which the observations and suggestions throughout the book are drawn.

Part II is more interpretive and is built on the part of the research where all the responses to questionnaires are piled up in stacks of post-it note madness, reducing said responses to categories represented by a few key images (the graphics for these post-it mountains/key image categorizations is cool). The four areas discovered during the interview process that are important to younger adults (both within and outside of the church) as identified by the research team were Community, Depth (and content), Responsibility, and (Cross-Generational) Connection.

An interesting inclusion in the book is the on-going story of four representative twenty-somethings. The reader will find the fictional representation of how this research is lived out every day at the end of each chapter in parts I and II. I liked this part of the book because the fictional representatives of five different kinds of young adults helped to put some flesh on what goes on in the minds of those who participated in the research. The only glimpse of the characters outside of the first two parts of the book is the challenging conclusion that is in the (what else) conclusion.

Part III focuses on the churches that are getting it right as far as the younger adult generation is concerned. Mountains of interviews and reading are reflected in this section that identifies nine common traits found in those churches that are actually reaching this younger set of adults (creating deeper community, making a difference through service, experiencing worship, conversing the content, leveraging technology, building cross-generational relationships, moving toward authenticity, leading by transparency, and leading by team).

There are several bits of useful information in the book and some helpful hints as to how to build (or re-organize) your ministry to reach a generation that is quickly turning away from the church. One of the better moments is found about halfway through the book as the authors talk about the importance of building community. They suggest that churches should move from a behave/believe/belong model (which currently characterizes a majority of churches in America) to a belong/believe/become model. The former expects unchurched people to behave in the right manner before we even allow them in the doors of our space, then we teach them how to believe and finally we are free to invite them to belong to our number. The latter model suggests that we welcome people in (as they are) to then learn what we believe and then become with us as we learn to be more like Christ. (see pages 83 & 84).

I would recommend this book to anyone who is still trying to get a handle on the new generation. Those who are already getting it won’t benefit too much from this book except to validate what they are already doing.

I give Lost and Found 4 out of 5 reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, March 12, 2009

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