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"Cool! Your church has funerals," a friend recently said after I told him about attending one for a fellow parishioner at my church.

My friend attends one of those churches that meet in a Cineplex. Ever since he first told me about his theater church, I had wondered about the logistics of baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

It turns out that the entire membership of his congregation ranges in age from late teens to late 20s. Baptisms are rare and handled at other venues. As far as he knows, they've never had a funeral. And when people get married, they rent out traditional churches for the occasion.

That's what another friend of mine did when she married. Popcorn-scented upholstery and soda-sticky floors were not what she had dreamed of for her wedding day. When she had children, she stopped going altogether since her family didn't fit in with the targeted ministries to young singles. She's yet to find a new church home.

For years, separate age-targeted services and churches were seen as the way to reach the children of baby boomers. More recently, many of these experiments in youth worship have spun off from their sponsoring congregations, shut down completely, or morphed into more traditional congregations.

That's not entirely surprising. A concern for the souls of young adults reached a fever pitch in recent years following surveys showing that young adults were not worshiping regularly even if they had been active churchgoers as teenagers. But the fact is that surveys have pointed to this trend for decades.

"It merely shows that when young people leave home, some of them tend to sleep in on Sunday mornings rather than go to church," says Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark. "That they haven't defected is obvious from ...

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Segregated in a Whole New Way
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In the Magazine

January 2010

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