First of all, I want to warn you that you have entered into one of those hot topics. This week alone, I have read at least ten (probably more) new posts on what Millennials want from churches, or what churches should do to serve young adults. Some blogs or articles even talk about what churches can do to bring young adults back to church. Often, the question I am asked by my fellow church goers is: “Why are so many of our own kids leaving the church?"
The first thing I want to point out is that question is not a new question, and yet the experiences of young adults “growing up” and “growing out” of faith is still something that pains the church. Second, this “growing up” and “growing out” of faith tends to be viewed as a natural progression of life that the church is just supposed to let happen.(with the hope that all those who leave will return)
There is little doubt that the day we leave our parents house is the day that the world really does seem very different. In fact, that is the time when our world expands and we become -- independent (HA!). Much like the story of the Prodigal Son -- off we go to new adventures and new freedoms. Of course, recently there has been much online and social media attention on the return of the Prodigal Son -- not so much the bible story -- but the fact that we have several 30 year olds who are moving back in with mom and dad.
After high school I went away from home - for me it was an 8 hour move away from Pennsylvania to Michigan. For you it might have been military or college or getting married right out of high school. After college I got married and we moved to Memphis. By the age of 22, I was in graduate school, was married, and lived 12.5 hours away from family. (Your story may be similar or completely different, but I share these things to point out that it is fair to say that I was on my way to “growing up” at age 22) For generations living right now, this is a similar story, but for most of our Millennials, the idea of "growing up" shouldn't really be thought about until close to 30.
What every book on young adults will talk about right now is a new period of time between the ages of 18-30 named “emerging adulthood.” (some authors will extend this time period to 35) In a nutshell, what this time period indicates is a shift in the thinking of our culture, especially as it pertains to extended adolescence and "growing up". There is a slogan for this period and it goes like this, “30 is the new 20.” What this means is that the 20s are to mainly be enjoyed, to be lived freely - free from responsibility and free from consequences. In the mainstream of American culture, your twenties are a time of:
Yet Meg Jay, an author who claims that young adults should take their 20s more seriously, wrote in her book The Defining Decade (which I'm sure I have referenced before):
“Our 20s are the defining decade of adulthood. 80% of life's most defining moments take place by about age 35. 2/3 of lifetime wage growth happens during the first ten years of a career. More than half of Americans are married or are dating or living with their future partner by age 30. Personality can change more during our 20s than at any other decade in life. Female fertility peaks at 28. The brain caps off its last major growth spurt. When it comes to adult development, 30 is not the new 20. Even if you do nothing, not making choices is a choice all the same. Don't be defined by what you didn't know or didn't do.”
Jay looks out at 20-year-olds and tells them that their bodies are not going to slow down, so women who wait to get married at age 35 might only have a small window in which to have children. Young men who never get a job in their twenties will have to work entry level positions in their 30s, which is usually the time for promotions. And we could go on, but if you are interested in Meg Jay’s insights, then you should read her book. What we are finding out is that persons who take longer to “emerge as adults” in their 20s will have to work harder, invest more money, and simply miss out on parts of life in their 30s. (If they ever caught up at all)
So, it is extremely important that young adults set themselves up well in their 20s, but the truth is that fewer and fewer are really doing that, seeking to have fun and live for the moment despite the warnings. (after all, there’s nothing fun about warnings)
This new time period known as “emerging adulthood” coupled with a few more things like:
Much like the Israelites, freed from the bondage of Egypt and finding themselves totally trying to survive in the wilderness, young adults are making the very same mistakes so many years later. Young adults forget that God has not abandoned them in the wilderness, and that God is trying to guide them to the promised land, a place He has prepared for them. If only the Israelites would have stopped grumbling and complaining and realized that God was trying to help them rely on Him through that time...Hello young adults!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.