Reaching Secular Young Adults: The Meeting House in Ontario, Canada

In secular Toronto, young adults are returning to church when presented with specific and important challenges.

One in three Canadians aged 25-34 claims no religious affiliation, and the number of secular youth there is growing. But one church, The Meeting House, in the Toronto, Ontario, suburb of Oakville, is making a difference. With weekly multisite attendance around 5,500, half of the church’s attendees are under 35.

“The 25-35-year-olds in Ontario are late moving into adulthood,” says Senior Pastor Tim Day. “They are backpacking and traveling and waiting on marriage or locking into a career.” This attitude, which Day calls “floating,” carries into church involvement, which young people often feel is unnecessary in a compassionate Canadian culture.

“When their workplace is gathering money to build a well in Africa, the church can feel like a lame version of that,” Day says.

Day says reaching this age group requires more than humor, a great phone app or trendy branding. It requires specific and important challenges.

Every week through a network of The Meeting House’s Home Churches, groups of 15-30 people discuss the weekly message and face off with a “So what?” action challenge that seems to be the highlight for young people. It might be about habits, fixing a relationship or giving, but they set a goal and plan to meet or exceed that goal, tracking progress weekly.

“The trendy stuff only allows the conversation,” Day says. “What’s hitting the younger generation is clear and compelling calls to action.”

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