Ignored: A Practical Theology Inquiry of Korean-Speaking Young Adults in a Transnational Congregational Context

Publication Date



This dissertation focuses on an overlooked population in the study of Korean American Christianity—Korean-speaking young adults in immigrant churches. Considering that almost all of the literature about the emerging generation in Korean churches in the U.S. exclusively attend to the English speaking generation, this research project raises the question of “How should the Korean immigrant church as a community understand and serve Korean speaking young adults?” In light of this central research question, this study seeks to bring awareness to the hidden younger generation of Korean-speaking young adults, and to suggest a discernment process for Korean immigrant churches in the U.S. to engage in more faithful practices.

The opening two chapters lay the methodological groundwork. With an overarching methodology of practical theology and a qualitative research method, chapter 1 provides a detailed account of the research methodology, including how this study’s field research was conducted. Chapter 2 surveys and evaluates the current understanding of this consistently ignored population from the existing literature.

Chapter 3 expounds upon the results from data collected through a survey of 404 Korean-speaking young adults and 40 in-depth interviews with Korean American pastors. Throughout the discussion of the research findings, this study addresses Korean-speaking young adults’ intersectional struggles (as emerging adults and ethnic minorities), their experiences of loneliness, their transnational perspectives, and their relationships with their church communities.

Based on these findings, chapter 4 proposes an ecclesiology for Korean immigrants and their young people in a transnational context, in conversation with contemporary migration theology. This constructive ecclesiology recommends that the Korean immigrant church as a community should embody these features: people finding their identity and dignity based on the imago dei, beyond national origin or migration status; people experiencing belonging and formation together within the framework of an adoptive family of siblings; and people participating in and contributing to God’s ongoing redemptive work from a missional church perspective.

Finally, chapter 5 suggests some pragmatic ways to move forward. This chapter articulates four necessary transformations for Korean immigrant churches to process and pursue as a community, moving: from a fragmented church structure to an intergenerationally connected community; from a knowledge-based and unidirectional teaching discipleship program to spiritual formation in an adoptive family of siblings; from hierarchical leadership to missional church leadership; and from a self-conceived identity as a traditional immigrant church to a transnational church. This study finishes by proposing Appreciative Inquiry as a simple but helpful way to begin actualizing these changes.

Degree Name

PHD in Theology

First Advisor

Clark, Chapman R.

Date Uploaded


Collection Number


Document Type


File Name





Church work with Korean Americans, Korean American churches, Church work with immigrants, Church work with young adults, Spiritual formation, Discipling (Christianity)


Missions and World Christianity


Material hosted by ProQuest subject to copyright


This was uploaded by the David Allan Hubbard Library from the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (ProQuest). If there are any mistakes in this record, please contact archives@fuller.edu.

ProQuest URL


Upload File


Embargo Period