Not all faith groups are losing young adults

 Editor's note: Laura Kipp wrote this in response to this week's VIEWPOINTS question: Why do you think places of worship are losing young adults?

Mormon missionaries go door-to-door in Connecticut.
Mormon missionaries go door-to-door in Connecticut.

Young men from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go on two year missions at age 19. We have more than 55,000 full-time missionaries around the world right now, but that number includes older married couples who serve missions together, and women who leave on their missions at 21 years old or older. I am 22 and planning a full time mission. 

On Sundays I meet for church in a ward (congregation), which is solely for unmarried adults ages 18 to about 32. Wards like this are nicknamed a “singles’ ward” in reference to our marital status. The name of the ward I attend is Terrace View and we meet at the church building on Evergreen and 16th. About 100 young adults regularly attend Terrace View, more in the summer when people are home from school. Terrace View is for the Valley area of Spokane; there are also singles’ wards on the north side and on the South Hill.

Church is on Sundays and is three hours long (1 – 4 p.m.) The first hour is a sacrament meeting. Besides partaking of the sacrament, we also share prayers and hymns, and there are a few talks, except for once a month when anyone can go up to the pulpit without pre-scheduling and “bear testimony” of the truthfulness of the gospel and Jesus Christ. A bishop, who would be an older adult, presides over this meeting, but members of the congregation give talks in turn. Then for the second hour there are various Sunday school classes to choose from. For the third hour, men and women separate for “Relief Society” or “priesthood” meeting, which is basically another Sunday school class.

This is all identical to a regular congregation except there is no children's program or nursery. There are just a few older adults, like the bishop (the leader of the congregation) and his two counselors, who preside over singles’ ward congregations. We young adults all have volunteer positions we are asked to do, or “callings,” to teach and do everything else. Before church we can attend choir practice, and I have a missionary meeting after church. On the one day a month we all fast together (first Sunday of every month, 24 hours — t's the same day I mentioned above where we testify), there is a tradition for singles’ wards to have a “break the fast,” or “munch 'n mingle,” which is a potluck meal we have together after church. Corny, I know!

Aside from the regular church meetings, often on Sunday evenings we can gather for a meeting we call a “fireside” (an old term, obviously), which is a talk by someone in a leadership position, often broadcast on BYU TV and/or the Internet.

 LDS congregations everywhere are run completely by lay ministry, including bishops; full time missionaries pay for their own living expenses during their missions.

We also participate in a lot of weekday activities in the evenings to socialize and learn. Not everyone who attends church at Terrace View necessarily goes to any or all of these things, depending on how busy or interested they are, but we like to have lots of activities in the singles’ ward and everyone is encouraged to be involved. 

Mondays are always Terrace View Home Evening night, based on the Mormon church's encouragement for family's to have family night on Mondays. Families will spend time together having fun and the parents will teach the children about the gospel.)In a single's ward, we conduct a meeting, someone presides and we start and end with a prayer and hymn, and someone shares a spiritual thought and invites discussion.  After that we have an activity or play games for an hour or two. In my congregation, many stay later to play volley or dodge ball. 

Tuesday there is an “institute” meeting in the seminary building at Central Valley High School, and there are quite a few institute classes all over Spokane, in particular at the colleges and universities and at the institute building downtown. Institute is a religious class to learn scripture. By the way, seminary is the high school equivalent of institute, and they also have a weeknight activity, as well as personal growth and leadership programs, which for the boys is Boy Scouts. We rotate study yearly in a four year rotation; one year, for example, we study the Old Testament, the next year, the New Testament, then The Book of Mormon, then The Doctrine and Covenants.  

On Wednesdays we have a great thing going in my congregation, we call it a missionary party. It's a fun weekly party that the ward missionaries, including me, put on, where everyone is encouraged to bring their friends. The full time missionaries stop by, and they love to invite the young adults they meet in their missionary work to come to this party. Someone shares a spiritual thought at the beginning, then everyone hangs out, talks, snacks and plays games. 

Thursday nights we often have had a tennis night at the University High School tennis courts, or volleyball nights, maybe again as the weather warms up. At the moment the parents of one of the girls in the congregation (her calling is Relief Society president) are giving a cooking lesson in their home on Thursday nights, just for fun.

Friday night is date night. We are encouraged to go on dates!  

Lately on Saturdays, some will volunteer to clean the church building in the mornings, and sometimes we have “service projects.” This would also be the day we would be doing something special like a bike trip or inner tubing. 

And that is a week. And this is our Facebook page. And what a blessing it is.

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Diane Kipp

The headline isn’t mine, of course all groups lose members Mormons included, I don’t know the numbers, but the way it occurred to me to answer the question was just share how much I enjoy being active in my congregation and what it’s like, it’s always interesting to see how other people worship. I have actually heard as a Mormon that young adult age is a common time to join the church, because it’s an age where you are open mined and seperating from your parents’ beliefs, but not necessarily old enough to be set in your ways yet. So I didn’t know losing young adults was a problem. People do join the church regularly in my congregation, through friends or the missionaries, and it’s very exciting, especially to think that in the future they will marry and raise their family in the church and generations will be effected by their choice.

Diane Kipp

I accidentally commented in my mom’s account, this is Laura NOT Diane! 🙂

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