Sarah Drummond tells this story in this week's email from the Alban Institute:
First Church in Cambridge is, in many ways, a typical mainline congregation. The music is usually classical, the liturgy rooted in Christian history and decidedly traditional. Boards and committees make many of the church’s decisions through a conventional governance structure. The ministry staff includes a senior pastor, an interim associate pastor, and a lay minister of religious education. The community where the church is located is highly-educated and liberal, and the church’s stance on social issues reflects this environment. What makes the church truly different from many of its peers is not just that it is growing—many churches do that—but the demographic category that is growing most quickly: Post-collegiate adults in their 20s and 30s. At one New Member Sunday in early 2008, out of 30 new members, 27 were under the age of 35.
What is their secret?
There is no easy answer to that question. But many religious leaders would like to have at least an inkling as to how this mainline Protestant church has been able to attract a critical mass of new members from such a fluid and complex population.
In 2007-2008, FCC designed and implemented a church-wide program on Christian “faith practices” for all of its members, offering them the opportunity to explore the ways in which they were living out their faith through Christian practices such as hospitality, keeping Sabbath, and testimony. Building on this study, in 2008-2009 they initiated a second faith practices program focusing specifically on younger adults. They deployed seminarians toward the purpose of reaching out to the younger adults who had found their way, through various means, to the church. The seminarians each designed a program, implemented the plan, and then reported back to each other and church leaders about what they did and what they learned.