One of the greatest strengths and at the same time one of the greatest weaknesses of young adults, from inside and outside the church, is that they stick together.
I realise that my observations are from a Western cultural context, but every age group in the West seems to demonstrate this characteristic of limiting relationships to people of the same, or at least similar, age. I believe that some of this is due to the amount of time young adults today spend in environments that reinforce this paradigm (eg. schools, universities, sporting groups, etc.). With this in mind, surely the church has something different to offer – something better than merely a ‘Christianised’ version of what the world broadcasts as valuable and important.
I have been thinking about the people who God has used to shape my life and faith over my young adult years (which are rapidly coming to an end): my parents, our children’s God-parents, pastors, lecturers, and authors. All of these amazing influencers are older than me – some by many many years.
Why is it then that so many young adult ministries, and young adult ministry leadership is done by young adults?
Don’t get me wrong I believe that peer-leadership is very helpful and something that I personally have benefited from greatly, but if my discipleship was limited to peers, I can’t imagine where I would be today.
Dunn and Sundene in their helpful book “Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults” concisely outline that “Fully mature spiritual adulthood cannot be reached without intentional relationships that invest God’s grace, truth and love into the young adult’s life.” (Dunn. R. and Sundene. J. Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults, 16)
How do we expect young adults in our churches to negotiate a season of decisionmaking without the insight, wisdom, comfort, encouragement and support of those further down the road?
Young Adults in their twenties find themselves adrift on a sea of choices. Should I study? If so, what should I study? Should I go to Bible College? Is God calling me to full time ministry or mission? Should I get married? If so, whom should I marry? Where should I work? Should I move out? Should I travel?
Who better to listen and pose value-probing questions to young adults than older men and women who trust in the promises of God and are submitting themselves to the will of God? This is not to say that men and women in our churches should be making decisions for young adult, but more so coaching them during this critical life stage. It is only through a web of diverse relationships that young adults are able to grow up in the faith and thrive in life.
If young adults are going to continue to see the local church as God’s place for discipleship, be strengthened in faith and equipped for ministry and mission, it will require intentional relationships with older men and women to be developed – not simply more courses and programs.
Will you take up this opportunity to connect with a young adult in your church?