Life, Theology & Discipleship with Wes Woodell

Reaching the Missing Generation: Common Characteristics of Healthy Disciplemaking Ministries – Introduction


This post is the introduction to the series Reaching the Missing Generation: Characteristics of Healthy Disciplemaking Ministries outlined here.

If you’ve been to a church leadership conference in the past few years, you’ve likely heard presenters lamenting the generation gap present among churches in the United States today.

The phrase “generation gap” was coined to refer to a problem many churches are facing.

A number of reputable organizations have performed studies that show the average church in the US is made up of mostly middle-aged and older congregants with a sprinkling of teens or young children, many of whom are the grandchildren of church members. The demographic making up the in-between generation – mostly 18 to 35-year-olds represented by older teens, college students, and young adults in their twenties or thirties – are largely absent.

They are the missing generation.

Lots of work has already been done to document this problem, and it’s not my intention to rehash all of that (google it if you’re interested). I’d prefer instead to offer suggestions to help rectify the problem.

I’ll do that by giving you an overview of characteristics common among ministries that are reaching the missing generation.

Believe it or not, there are churches and ministries out there that don’t have a generation gap problem – they’re having a different experience entirely.

Instead of seeing a drop in attendance among 18 to 35-year-olds, these groups are seeing consistent growth within that demographic and are not only keeping those normally making up the missing generation, they’re consistently reaching new people within that age group who were completely unchurched previously.

In fact, it’s their effective evangelism within that demographic that’s driving the overall health and growth of their churches!

So if this generation gap is a big problem and some seem to have overcome it, why not see what we can learn from them in order to replicate that success?

That’s precisely what the articles in this series are meant to help us do.

What will be shared is the fruit of over a decade of observations and research.

The personal study I’ve put into this has involved a lot. I’ve had countless conversations with other church leaders, read numerous books and articles, attended lots of classes, lectures and conferences, and even performed a series of national surveys over the course of 5 years through Campus Ministry United – a non-profit I work with.

When performing those surveys with CMU, I managed to identify a handful of campus ministries that were consistently reaching unchurched college students. Out of that small group I performed in-depth interviews with each leader and was able to identify common characteristics present in their ministries that weren’t present in ministries lacking conversion growth.

That original research provided a foundation that I’ve continued building on over the years as I’ve personally grown and matured as a minister.

While I’ve presented portions of this material at universities and conferences, this is the first time I’ve set out to write everything down for public consumption.

Also, while the things I’ll be writing here have been thought through and refined over a period of years, that doesn’t mean everything will be correct. 

Many reading this blog are wiser than me.

Further refinement of ideas will be needed as we move forward, and feedback is welcomed. That’s why comments are enabled on this site.

So there’s the introduction.

In the next few posts we’ll unpack characteristics common among disciplemaking leaders, then we’ll move on to look at characteristics common among disciplemaking communities.

All of this is intended to help us get at a model of ministry that will help churches reach the missing generation instead of lamenting their absence.

Two final things:

1) If this subject matter is of interest to you and you’d like to be part of the conversation, please take a moment to subscribe by entering your email address below.

2) If friends of yours would be interested in this material, please share it on your social media accounts or email the link for this site to your friends who need to see it.

This is a brand new site just launched this week. People are going to need help at first to find it. Thank you for your assistance in that.

I look forward to what’s to come!

Leave a Reply


Passionate about connecting people to Jesus?

* Get the latest posts delivered fresh to your inbox.
* Qualify for subscriber-exclusive content & freebies.

Never miss a post!

Get the latest content delivered fresh to your inbox by signing up below: