Changing SEA

What Churches Do Emerging Adults Like?

An ethnographic investigation by the Changing SEA project,
made possible by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc

Edited by Kathleen Garces-Foley, Associate Professor of
Religious Studies, Marymount University

What kinds of churches do emerging adults attend? Why do they go? How involved are they? How do churches engage emerging adults in meaningful ways?

In October 2009, six Research Fellows began studying churches in various regions of the country that were clearly reaching the emerging adult population. We intentionally looked for churches that identify with a range of confessional traditions: mainline Protestant, conservative Protestant, African American, and Roman Catholic. To read a short biography about each of the Research Fellows and the type of church being studied, click here.

After completing nine months of field research, the Research Fellows have written essays identifying the best practices they observed. Below you will find links to their descriptions of what these churches are doing that works. Many of these churches focus special ministry efforts on adults that fit the typical range for emerging adults, 18-29, but some broaden their efforts to include those in their thirties who have not yet started families. You are invited to respond to their essays by posting comments of your own.

Two additional ethnographic studies were completed for the Changing SEA Project. Gerardo Marti examined the Emerging Church Movement in its many forms and variations across the country and Kathleen Garces-Foley (Co-Investigator of the CSEA Project) studied diocesan and parish Catholic young adult ministry in the Washington, DC region. Their research findings are also posted below.

Essay Forum