I began a review of Ed Stetzer’s new book Lost and Found here. In that beginning, I acknowledged at least two things I hated to admit, given that the book was given to me as a freebie on the promise of a review: one, I was tardy in getting the review done. I hate that, because I like to meet schedules, particularly under these circumstances. But two, among the reasons I was tardy was that, honestly, I found it hard to get into this book. Sorry, it’s the truth: the book didn’t grab me. I got into it a little more the further it went along, but this wasn’t the most scintillating read I’ve ever read, sorry.
Here’s the synopsis of the book: Stetzer and his co-writers, Richie Stanley and Jason Hayes, undertake to discover the reasons behind the high church dropout rate among 20-somethings, and then to suggest some things that the “younger unchurched” might be looking for in a church, as well as tell the stories of some churches which have had success in reaching this age group.
What bogs the book down in the beginning, from my perspective, is the excessive use of statistics. Now…I acknowledge the need for illustrating points with the data that has been garnered from interviews with young people in this age group; Stetzer and his friends have done us a great service by gathering this information, and by analyzing it for trends; this is certainly the high-water mark of the book, the sheer information gained. But it makes for sometimes tedious reading, at least for this reviewer.
The second part of the book moves to analysis, and this does serve to bring all the data together in a more user-friendly format, identifying major themes that emerged from the data. Four “markers” of this generation of “younger unchurched” emerge as being the key to reaching and retaining them, if their words are to be trusted: community, depth (and content), responsibility, and (surprisingly to me) cross-generational connection. Clue in to these four markers, and a church ostensibly will improve its success among this age group.
The final section surveys some churches that are employing these markers in their outreach to this age group, with each chapter’s title beginning with “How Churches Are…”. This section didn’t deliver as well as promised, though, at least with respect to my expectations; what I’d have liked to have seen, rather than getting different thoughts from different pastors in each section, would be to have read an in-depth analysis of one or two churches in each given category; for instance, under “How Churches are Making a Difference Through Service” (Chapter 9), I’d have preferred to read about one church that had really made serving others a significant priority, rather than read quotes from a dozen pastors and leaders from different churches. Maybe that’s a personal preference thing…
At any rate, this book could be quite useful for those seeking answers to the dropout question, and particularly for those interested in seeing the evangelical church make a significant course correction. My prayer and hope is that that will be the case in years to come!