1 Corinthians 13:11 – When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
The past few weeks I’ve been working with my church’s NexGen young adult ministry. I love these young people! They have such beautiful hearts and, in many ways, are blank slates that can be written on with the Word of the Lord in permanent ink. Along with the beauty of their hearts come some distinct traits that are common of all millennials.
Now I am not a millennial. I am a GenX. I just missed being a boomer by about 4 years. Translated that means that I am old. I’m not walk with a cane, take Geritol, read AARP old, but I’m getting there. I actually received my first AARP magazine in the mail a few weeks ago. It was a mistake. It should have gone to a neighbor’s house. But you can imagine that moment that I opened the mailbox and saw AARP. I think I facepalmed pretty hard that moment.
But I digress.
Our churches are in desperate need to reach the young adults in the communities they serve. As I review the Annapolis area and in speaking with the young adult leaders in my church, I have come find out that our group is one of the largest in the Annapolis area and that there are really only about 5 or 6 programs in the area that cater to the age group of 18-35.
And we wonder why the young adults are not coming church?!?!
No amount of music can bring them and keep them.
No amount of preaching can bring them and keep them.
No amount of impressive works can bring them and keep them.
Ephesians 4:15-16 – Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
With the millennial generation, it is all about how much you interact with them.
Think of it this way.
Most young adults are just starting to make it at their jobs. They are taking on more responsibility and meeting a lot of new people. These are people who could, and most likely will, affect their future jobs.
After work, many of these young adults go out to the bar after work. They are building relationships with the people that they work with.
On Sunday, they may go to church. After church, they go back to their apartments or homes and realize that no one at the church they just attended cared enough to ask them to do something.
Here is the Christian church, the place that has the message of salvation for all of humanity, the place that is built upon the doctrine of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, and the place that should care so much about each and every soul that walks into the church that we want to get to know each and every soul that walks into the church.
But most churches don’t cater to the needs of young adults.
1 Samuel 2:26 – Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man. (This was also said of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, by the way)
The past few weeks I have had the blessing to be able to minister to these amazing men and women and I have come to learn more about me than I would have if I had sat idly by hoping that someone else would reach them.
Young adults do not think like us old farts. As many of these men and women are starting their careers and their lives, they have a very limited view of what is around them. As we age, we are able, through experience, to distinguish when something is critical and when something is not. Young adults do not have the filter of experience. Everything to them is of utmost importance because it is all they know.
For example, if they get screamed at by their boss at work, they immediately could be thinking how their job is on the line. While those of us who have lived through several jobs are able to tell when something is at critical mass or something is more benign.
Having a child is another scary time. I always have to smile when my young adult friends are having their first child. They spend hours going from baby store to baby store to get the most safest crib, the stroller that holds the most stuff and can travel across the beach (like they think they will have TIME for the beach with children), and all of the outlet covers and corner guards they can get their hands on. Then they freak out when their child hits their head on the one corner of the one TV table that they forgot to cover. As an adult who has been through two children, I smile and laugh and think to myself how, in a few short months, all that money they spent on that stuff will have been wasted and they will be simply wanting to spend more time with their children than taking the time to wrap them in the equivalent of bubble wrap.
But young adults don’t know all this. All they know is that their world is very different from the world their parents grew up in (in most ways, though, it isn’t) and that their parents advice doesn’t matter because of how much their world is different.
Young adults want someone to simply come alongside them and build them up. They don’t want everyone’s advice. They simply want someone there to encourage them, tell them it will be ok, and be there to catch them if they do slip (and catch them without judgment of their previous action).
1 Timothy 2:4 – Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We were all at their age once. We were all scared of the world that lies ahead but taking each step with feigned confidence so that no one would see the fear in our hearts. If we simply would have been in touch with someone with some wisdom, our journeys would be much better for it. But part of growing older is making the mistakes.
Would I have wanted someone next to me when I was 23 to tell me that the woman I was about to marry was unequally yoked to me? Of course! Now I do. But at that time, I had those people telling me that and I didn’t listen to it.
But that experience for myself gave me a deeper love and understanding of the kingdom of God. It prepared me for a life sold out to Him.
And these young adults are going to make mistakes. Some of them will be significant, life-changing mistakes.
But as long as we who are the elders of the church, the wise and the old farts, come alongside them and simply be there to encourage them through their trials, they will grow knowing the grace of God and how His death on the cross means everything to them, even if they screw up this life.
So I encourage my older readers to spend time with your church’s youth group and/or young adult group. If your church doesn’t have a young adult group, get one started. it is so vitally important these men and women have a safe place that they can call their home.
And what better home than the church of the Living God!
Psalm 71:18 – So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.