In working with college students and young adults for over a decade now, let me try to concisely share 5 things they need from the Church.
1. Relationships - Are there a group of friendly young adults that can make friends with other young adults? Does the church have a solid group of Christian women that hang out Monday-Saturday? Does the church have a solid group of Christian men that hang out Monday-Saturday? You might notice that churches who attract young adults tend to get a lot of them and churches who don't attract young adults seem to be emptied of them. The Young Adult says, "If I have no friends my age at the church I want to attend, then I will choose friends over institution about 100% of the time"
2. Relationships - If the church is going to continuously talk and promote marriage as the normal Christian life, then there had better be some good, single, well-qualified Christian men or women to choose from at the church we want these 20 somethings to attend. If we do not provide young adults with a group through which they might be able to find a potential spouse, then they will probably go somewhere else that has a larger potential to get the Christian life about which they have always been taught. The Young Adult says, "the Church values marriage, I get that, but I am often unsure if they value me."
3. Relationships - Young Adults want to know the leaders of the church. They want to know the preacher who brings them the lesson every Sunday, because they want the lessons to connect the their life. They want to make sure the minister, pastor, preacher knows the world in which they live, and speaks to their experience of it. But more than that, they want to know the elders, bishops, shepherds. They want to know that the 20 something contingency is represented in leadership decisions. The Young Adult says, "I have a voice in my congregation, and I know the leadership here cares for people like me."
4. Relationships - you guessed it - young adults need older adults in their lives. I call them mentors, some call them life coaches, regardless of what you call them--they are people who have been there, don't that, and want to pass on some wisdom to younger generations. You wouldn't believe the impact one couple can make on a whole group of young adults when they invest. Often, students come into my office saying how thankful they are for the adults in their lives that listen, advise, and care for them. The Young Adult says, "Most of the time I try to have it together or at least fake it, but it is so refreshing to know that there are adults I can lean on when I need help."
5. Relationships - young adults need to foster their relationship with God, through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. I assume that some of you are wondering why this is not number 1, but in the world of young adults, God is most powerfully experienced through human relationships. A young adult that is well connected in the church is also well connected to God, well, most of the time. So often we wait for young adults to get their relationship with God right before we really invest in them, or ask others to invest in them. However, if you find that that approach is not working, then maybe consider this one and watch how a young man will grow into a Man of God and a young woman will become a Woman of God through ENGAGEMENT and EMPOWERMENT in the CHURCH!
Yesterday, Rodney Plunket really spoke to my heart. He has often done this, but in his sermon, he was exploring the implications of 1 John 4:1-6 on us as believers. The text explores the Spirit of truth that God has poured out on Christians and asks us to test the spirits. While this can be seen as a daunting task, the text reassures us by reminding us that " Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (4:4) Yet, to say that we as Christians are not influenced by the "spirits" of our culture and the expected positions of our time is of course short-sited. Taking a stand for something good can sometimes lead us down a road we never intended to drive. Rodney shared with us some personal reflections, and I asked permission to repost them on this blog so that I might revisit these reflections from time to time, and so that you might also have access to them. One time through these thoughts is not enough to really soak them in, so I pray that each of you, if you call yourself Christian, will revisit these words and allow them to take root in all of us...
Which spirit is operative within me? Am I living out the confession?
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.