Eileen and I really enjoyed traveling to Atlanta with some of our young adults for “Passion” last winter. As I was making my hotel reservations for this year’s conference, it struck me just how blessed we are – as a church family – to have the opportunity to make major moves forward in the area of college-age ministry. These bright and bold young adults are already among us. They, and many of their friends, are waiting to see if we’re going to take them seriously. Let’s do it! So, if you’ll allow me to do so today, I’d like to walk us through some important considerations in this regard.
Life is not about us.
This reminder always fits, and I’d like to quote the Apostle Paul on this one (Galatians 2:20): “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” If you and I can crawl out of our bubble – and even out of ourselves – for just a moment, I think we’ll discover that we need to invest in eternity. I don’t mean “invest” in some self-absorbed “what return will I gain from it?” kind of way, but here’s what I’m thinking: I’m thinking that these terrific young adults are the place for us to start investing!
The time is now to embrace college-age adults.
This year’s incoming freshman class at my alma mater, the University of Kentucky, is the largest in history. Though you and I don’t live in a university town like Lexington, we do live in a vibrant community – with an award-winning community college and a growing number of students – and we are surrounded by plenty of young adults who need to know Christ. Are you and I willing to recognize the significance of the current boom just past the end of our nose?
Many young adults feel like they’re in big trouble.
“Generation Z” – and I recognize that the term hasn’t really caught on widely yet – is marked by a number of profound fears about the future. That’s why they’re delaying many of the milestones which were celebrated earlier in life by previous generations. Many come from broken homes. Many have not witnessed healthy relationships among adults, and have been robbed by social media of some basic social skills. Even though we might consider some of Gen Z’s fears unfounded, the fears are real nonetheless. It’s our chance to love and serve.
Few young adults feel a general sense of happiness.
This may surprise you, but general “contentment” scores are at an all-time low when people are asked to rate their own emotional well-being. Young adults are stressed and depressed. Many are experiencing extreme restlessness. A general feeling of hopelessness seems to have reached an all-time high. Those of us who’ve walked with Christ for a while – through the up’s and the down’s – can be a valuable asset if we’ll steward (and package) our experience with grace.
Like nearly everybody else, today’s young people are way, way too busy.
There’s a “big” event somewhere every day, and life has become something of a constant battle for attention. Every generation can relate to this reality on some level, but young adults – because of multiple pressures and proclivities – are feeling the sting of hyperactivity on steroids right now. In Christ, and in redemptive relationships with these young folks, we can provide a respite and a breath of fresh air.
These years can be a spiritual shipwreck.
You’ve likely read about the sharp rise of the “nones” in recent years: American young people who profess no religious identity or affiliation whatsoever. No interest in church. No doctrinal convictions. No sense of loyalty to the professed faith of their parents. There has never been a generation in history which has “given up on God” in such obvious and wholesale ways. Sounds like our mission to me.
These years can also be “the best of times” spiritually.
You and I can’t forget what it’s like to be single and childless. Relatively speaking, those times in life are marked with little responsibility. Spiritually speaking, it’s the season of life that presents the most tremendous spiritual opportunity when it comes to things like “turning the campus upside down with the gospel” and “taking Christ to the nations.”
The decisions made by young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 formidably shape the rest of their lives.
I don’t have to tell you how much well-grounded guidance is needed during that stage of life. Perhaps not always appreciated, but needed nonetheless. It’s fundamentally imperative that believers and churches exert tremendous positive influence for Christ during those critical years.
Many young adults want to be mentored.
Let me tell you what I’ve discovered: the expectations are low. They don’t expect that our discipleship will be anything formal or fancy. These young adults just want us to “do life” with them, to help them navigate a few rough spots, and to offer them a little hope from time to time. By God’s grace and for His glory, we can do this.
We must keep the main thing the main thing.
If we’re going to do this right, we can’t get sidetracked by arguments about politics, body art, or what one wears to church. We are God’s people, and our only real Hero is CHRIST. It’s His gospel that is our banner and our identity. He is why we can have much in common with people with whom we don’t think we have much in common. Matt Chandler asks: “What does it look like to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It looks like walking with, loving with, and doing life with those who are different from you. What binds you together is Christ.”
The older adult must extend the first hand of friendship.
Let me state it plainly: many of the young adults around here don’t think that you’re really interested in a friendship with them. But they want one with you. So don’t wait. Go the extra mile. Discover their world, and step on in. Children’s ministry may fall into our lap, as we enjoy a relatively captive audience during those years, but that is so not the case when it comes to college-age ministry. Older adults can’t take a “no” or a “no show” personally. For every “yes” to one of our invitations, that young person probably said “no” to twenty-five other people and events.
Today’s college-age young people will be tomorrow’s movers and shakers.
The time is now for us to pour ourselves into this amazing generation. It is incumbent upon us to do what we can today to invest in the young adults who are looking to us for wisdom, experience, and grace. Indeed tomorrow’s church leaders need our vote of confidence today. Let them know Christ matters. Let them know they matter. Let them know!