Let’s be honest, sometimes young adults and their stigma as a loud, messy, crazy group can be intimidating. But this age is pivotal in spiritual development. A multitude of students who grew up in church are often left to fend for themselves as they head out to college or straight into the workforce. Why do we send them so willingly into a wilderness for four to six years and then wonder why we don’t understand them or are shocked at their falling away from the Lord?
After working with this age group for over a decade, here is my basic insider’s view of what they’re really like and what you can do to partner with them (and yes, we can all do something).
1. They crave community.
Because of high divorce rates and broken and unconventional families, the culture of this generation is one where “friends are family” and they are grasping for stability. And, believe it or not, they really want to hang out with us older folks (I’m only 33 so I’m using the term “older" very loosely).
They don’t want anything from you except for you to be yourself and show them how to do every day well. They want to know what it means to live as a business owner who keeps Christ at the center of day-to-day life. They want to know young families who are raising their children in the community of church and to know the Lord. They want to share a meal. They want to be involved and loved.
They want to be believed in.
They are craving wisdom and experience. And when that wisdom of the older generations seasons the zeal of the younger guys, the world had better look out.
2. They don’t care as much about “cool” church.
A few months back I overheard a conversation at a coffee shop between two twentysomethings. One young woman was explaining to her friend that she and her husband had chosen to go to an Episcopal church even though she was not raised in the denomination, and in spite of the fact that the service was quite liturgical and formal. What she said next shocked me:
“We just met some real people and feel like they really care about us.”
My generation grew up wanting a church that was “cool” and used words like “relevant” and “post-modern” to draw in those of us who were tired of a church stuck in the 80’s. Yes, being relevant is helpful. We should adapt to fit our societal culture to a degree. Sure, you have the super hipsters who always want an underground, offbeat experience, but for the most part these guys just want an organic and genuine group of people to do life with.
3. They have big dreams and they want to change the world.
While this age group is always known for its fervor and passion, these Millennials are serious about it. They aren’t going to settle, and they certainly aren’t going to settle down.
They’re tired of seeing parents work at jobs they hate and waste their days on lives without vision or purpose.
One young lady I know said it best:
I see a lot of older people saying “awesome, BUT” instead of “awesome, AND!” Students are encouraged to dream and patted on the head for being a Christian, but then halted with practicality. “It just isn’t LOGICAL. You won’t make any money. That’s too hard. That’s impossible.” And while I won’t discredit the wisdom in making good decisions and planning ahead, sometimes the guidance given discredits the Greatest Guide of all time. He wants to do “impossible” things. I want to hear, “awesome AND I want to help you. I, as a fellow laborer for Christ, want to spur you on to build this kingdom.” Don’t laugh off a big calling to change the world. That’s what Christians are – world changers.
When did we lose our sight of the God who created the entire universe, parted the waters, and fed the five thousand? Have we stopped dreaming ourselves?
So, what can you do? You. Your family. You may not feel “led” into college ministry, and you may not feel like you have much to offer. The truth is, you have a world to offer. Welcome them in, love them, get to know them. Make a safe place for them to dream with you. Show them it is okay to be themselves, to live big, and to mess up. Partner with them. Pray for them. Speak life to them.
Urge them to go farther and deeper than they can even see themselves.
Paint for them a bright future where their dreams are a reality. Oh, and a home cooked meal goes a long way too.
Do you agree? Is there anything you'd add to the list? Let me hear from you in the comments below!
Do Every Day Well // +dF