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!
I haven't been blogging much lately, not because I don't have anything to say but because I have no time to really sit down and write. I want to take a moment to explain some of the interesting conversations that you might have had recently with a young adult or college students. I also want college students to understand something about themselves. so, here it goes... (this is from Wandering in the Wilderness and you can buy it here!)
Notions of AUTHORITY change in young adulthood. Older adults tend to find religious authority in an outside source (Bible, parents, teachers, ministers)... and so as children we learned that Jesus loved us--because the Bible told us so! Emerging adults (20-30 year olds) experience a shift so that religious authority is located inside themselves, in fact parents may want to argue that all authority is located within the self. This shift comes with recognizing that an individual must take responsibility for one's own knowing...even at the level of faith.
Take a conversation about sexual experience for example:
55 year old parent: How can you say that having casual sexual experiences isn’t wrong? The Bible is quite clear on the issue. There are several passages of scripture that make obvious that sex outside of the commitment of marriage is a sin. And, there’s a long history within the church condemning such actions.
25 year old child: Yes, but I just don’t think God would condemn two people for loving one another. They’re not hurting anyone! Why can’t we just the issue alone? It doesn’t make any sense to say that God is love and that we ought to love one another and then to turn around and say, “Oh, that’s only for married people.” I think it threatens us because if we were given the choice, we would all choose to have sex with several people before settling down with just one.
In this conversation, the parent is arguing from “outside” authority, while the child argues from “inside” authority. Young people operate in the: “If it works for me, then I’ll accept it. If not, then I’ll reject it,” line of thinking and this is the pragmatism they tend to speak about a lot --therefore, this is a real danger
Calling young people back to the Bible is extremely important, as is taking the Bible seriously and applying it well when speaking to young people. When a young person shifts to the mature position of authority being located in an "outside" source, then the Bible, God, and wise counsel can be heard once again. Like Jesus said..."Those who have ears to hear, let them hear..." Open our ears, Lord!
If you are an emerging adult - I want you to listen to your justifications and explanations and see if you are operating from an "inside" authority or "outside" authority. Understand that the God of the Bible claims to be more than relatively true to you, the God of the Bible claims to be truthfully relevant to all peoples. If I am the only source of authority, then there can be no transferable lessons...and that is where older adults have us, they believe that lessons learned can be handed down, mistakes can be avoided, right living can be sought, and these things are validated in "outside" sources of ethics and morality.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.