Since I started coordinating young adult events, I’ve found myself wondering what churches need to do to bring emerging adults (especially young twenties) into full ownership and life of the church. This is ultimately a question of Christian formation and child development. It can be easy to fondly remember our children as the infants we held in the nursery, but our challenge ought to be imagining the independent adults they will soon become.
In the five years I’ve worked here, the first graders are almost middle schoolers, and the freshmen in my mission trip group leave for college this Fall. I’ve learned so much from our parents, teachers, and leaders about intentionally and mindfully raising their children to be God’s kingdom people.
I wonder what you hope for our children and teens as they grow into adults and interact with church?
What do you hope faith looks like for your (current or future) college student?
How will they see God? How will they engage other Christians or faith communities?
At SPU, I had friends who tried out and attended a variety of Seattle churches. Many found lovely places to worship, but the story that always disappointed me was when a friend would attend someplace where they were allowed to disappear, where they were another number in the crowd (…well, bad theology always bothered me too).
These friends found churches which were possibly flashy and probably uplifting. They surely heard the gospel, but their experience was void of meaningful community or caring mentors. And, sadly, when a church doesn’t integrate young adults, it loses the opportunity to meet them in their spiritual wilderness. I’ve watched churches fail my peers by glossing over the parts of faith which wrestle with doubt, confront our sins, and seek God’s transformation in our lives.
The twenties are a defining decade in part because it is the final transition from adolescence to adulthood. Many elements of Christian formation catalyze and cement in their early 20s. The parents I know are praying and hoping that the work the church has done through their child might take root and flourish in their college churches. Personally, I hope the children I’ve led in youth group are today finding transformational community and spiritual growth in their new churches.
I know how loving and intentional Bethany’s parents and teachers are because I’ve witnessed it over the years.
As you watch our children launch, are you asking yourself how Bethany might become more of the church you would desire your child to find as a young adult?
If your daughter found our website and showed up for worship on Sunday, without knowing anyone, what would their experience be?
Would your 21-year-old find connection, meaning, community, or mentorship here? Could they become an elder? Would they get married here?
I’d argue that, by asking these questions, we might find a new point of energy for our twenties ministry. When I brainstormed this with a recent empty nester, she said, “…we need to have a mixer at my house next Fall so we can connect college students with church families – and maybe find a place for them to stay for Thanksgiving, if they’re in town.”
I’d go further to argue that coming around our emerging adults is part of fulfiling the promise that we, as a community, make when we baptize our children: We the people of the church promise to tell this child the good news of the gospel, to help them know all that Christ commands, and, by our fellowship, to strengthen their family ties with the household of God.
It won’t be much longer before the first graders in my first Sunday School class will be leaving for college. When they launch, we will rely on the church universal to live out this baptismal promise.
How will we seek, challenge, and grow the young people who find our website? What ways can we draw these emerging adults into the community and life of the church?