Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why Young Adult Ministry is Just Like Pre-Teen Ministry

Young adult ministry is one of those things that takes a large stick, eyes in the back of your head, and enough Red Bull to fuel a small planet. Why? Because the only difference between young adult ministry and junior high ministry is that young adults generally keep their email address longer then 3-weeks. That, and young adults can drive (though that is debatable in most cases). Take a look at just three of the similarities:

1. Identity Exploration
Young adults, like most kids going into grade 6 or 7 facing a new school with a new set of friends and a new set of body parts, are likewise facing many new situations in life. Their identity, like their younger counter-parts, is being re-shaped by moving away from the major identity shapers of their past. Whereas junior high’s begin to explore an identity apart from their family-of-origin, young adults begin to explore their identity apart from their friends of influence. There seems to be a general struggle for identity shaping during the junior high years, quarter-life crises, mid-life crises, and retirement; the years between being the stable identity years. This, in my observation, is one of a number of reasons why many churched teenagers exit the church during the first few years following their graduation.

2. Instability
Yes…instability. For example; watch the emotional needs of a junior high girl and a twenty year old girl. Need another? Try to imagine a young adult sticking with one job, career aspiration, university program, or girlfriend/boyfriend. It’s tough isn’t it? It seems very much like the junior high kid who is trying out different sports, clothing, music, friend groups, sexual orientation, and any other mask or fit of choice. There seems to be an unparalleled sense of opportunity and hope that creates a need to try it all before settling for one or the other. Possibility, hope, and opportunity along with a new and yet unmatched access to information, education, travel, and finances creates endless paths to walk down, discover, and build vacation homes on. Opportunity, for all its virtues, has put young adult stability in a submission hold.

3. Feeling In Between
The obvious result off all this is of being in a place of neither here nor there. Limbo – and not the good kind of limbo that is found on a Mexican beach – is the confusing place of inbetweenness. The tween years. The adult-lescent years. This is the time of transition of being not really a youth but not really an adult; not really a kid but not really a youth, not a girl but not yet a woman. Just like every junior high kid needs a parent to sit them down and talk through really big questions of “Where do babies come from? Where do I come from? What’s happening to me? Why? What about girls and relationships?” so do young adults need people around them to direct them through the same really big questions. Additionally, just like anyone who has been ‘in between’ relationships, the inbetweenness that young adults feel are the formative feeling, thoughts, and actions that always paint the next picture. Obviously a significant time.

The list of similarities actually goes on and on but, I gave myself a half hour to write this and, my half hour is up. I’ve certainly not given this enough thought to actually post it online, however, given that I am also an instable twenty-something transient loving neo-hippie on a quest for personal identity, it would be totally appropriate that I do.