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Reaching out to the boomerang generation

Someone coined the term “boomerang generation” to describe young adults over age 18 who return (or “boomerang” back) to their parents’ household. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of adult Americans living with their parents is the largest it has been in more than 50 years.

Recent high school or college graduates launching the next chapter of their lives may be a forgotten community within our churches. They are no longer youth, but may not enjoy much of the adult fellowship and programming. How can your church connect with this generation?

Understanding the landscape

First, meet young adults where they are in life. Don’t assume that just because youth group was a big part of their high school lives, they will want to engage in the youth group as adult mentors. They may need some distance — some validation that they have grown up.

 

Second, recognize their unique stressors:

 

  • Job pressure. Are they college graduates who cannot find a job? In May 2012,CBS News reported that half of college graduates couldn’t find full-time jobs. Perhaps they’re still in college, yet anxious about what the future holds.
     
  • Lifestyle adjustment. Are they living independently or with their parents? In June 2012, CNN reported that more than half of adults ages 18-24 have had to move back with their parents at some point. It always involves many adjustments — on the parts both of the child and the parent.
     
  • Stress. The May 18, 2012, issue of Psychology Today describes PCSD (Post Commencement Stress Disorder). According to the article, boomerangers commonly feel a lack of control, a lack of support, a sense of failure if they cannot find work, irritability, an inability to sleep and a tendency to avoid normal everyday activities.

Meet their basic needs

How can your church support boomerangers as they navigate the uncertain waters of their new lives?

  • Provide opportunities for them to serve and provide leadership in places other than youth ministry, unless they express a desire to be a youth mentor or counselor. Some young adults may need space from the school crowd. Remember, they are adults with gifts to offer.
     
  • Offering a young adult Sunday school class is obvious, but try also to find someone in their late 20s to lead the class so everyone relates to each other.

Build relationships with non-threatening social events

Beyond these more traditional ways of engaging boomerangers in church life, realize they need to revive old friendships and meet new people their own age. Here are some ideas for social activities that may help create these connections:

  • Cooking and non-alcoholic cocktail classes. Add a new spin to the traditional potluck by teaching participants how to cook some delicious dishes before the rest of the crowd shows up. You could even hire a teacher from the local bartending school to come in and show everyone how to make non-alcoholic cocktails.
     
  • Weekly viewing of a popular show. Buy a whole season on DVD or Blu-ray to avoid commercials. Also, weed out snoozers by using a user-generated rating system such as metacritic.
     
  • Weekly movie night. Again, choose quality. Rottentomatoes is one of the best sources for finding film ratings. Be sure you have the license required to show films – whether at church or in someone’s home.
     
  • Workshop on resume writing. Contact a writing service or personnel firm to find an expert resume writer. The state of the economy has led to this skill becoming more of a science.
     
  • Mini job fair and panel. Find congregants from different professions. Contact local businesses that are advertising jobs in the paper or online. Check to see if your district has a center for nonprofit management nearby such as this one in Nashville, Tenn.

Perhaps too often, we allocate graduation to the “joyous” category of life events. Although it is certainly a happy milestone, graduating also is often a major stressor.