Emerging from the Mire

The latest issue of Christianity Today has a very interesting article about “Emerging Adulthood” in  Americans that are 18-29.  It’s a brief interview with the author of a book on the subject, Christian Smith, and his findings on this age groups beliefs (or lack thereof).  I found the following two excerpts interesting.

When asked “What are the traits of religious American teenagers who retain a high faith commitment as emerging adults?” Smith replied that the answer was undoubtedly parents “not just in telling kids about faith but also in modeling it.”  Now, as a parent, this shouldn’t be shocking to any of us.  However, to see it in print was, for me, newly humbling.  It’s a reminder that the way I live my faith is supremely important in how my two girls will one day live theirs.  Deuteronomy 6 comes to mind:  “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (ESV)  It’s a charge I’ve written/thought/prayed about often.

But not often enough.  Not nearly enough.

Ok, the second thing that struck me was:  “We think that emerging adults are also structurally disconnected from older adults who could be their mentors. The emerging adult world is self-enclosed. Older adults tend to be bosses with whom you have limited interaction, or professors with whom you are on performance terms. Even in some of the best churches, if an emerging adult happens to stay for Sunday school, it’s very likely to be in a post-college-age group. It’s hard for them to meet somebody who is 39 or 62 to get to know them and say, “Here’s what I’ve learned in life.”

For me, I’ve had  a few very key people in my life, other than family, that shepherded me and guided me on my way:  a former pastor, leaders in men’s ministry at church, a God-sent friend at work.  In every case, they had one common denominator:  they were older than me.  I have repeatedly been blessed by the wisdom these men have gleaned from life, and been grateful that they shared it with me and helped me in my walk.  The fact that there is a generation that is (gulp) just younger than me that does not, on average, seek/value/have that…that’s frightening, and sad.

When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything.  Even as a young adult, I felt the same.  However, once I got married…that all changed.  Part of the problem with this group (and I’m no sociologist) is that they are extending their adolescence on into years where most of us were already married and starting families.  The delay in growing up is a contributor to this, no doubt.  But when I was 16-17, I wasn’t making decisions in politics, jobs, or community that affected anybody but me.  There is an entire group of people out there, growing into adulthood, with no mentors.  They need them, just like I did.  And do.


3 thoughts on “Emerging from the Mire

  1. I totally agree! I grew up surrounded by people who were older than me. However, in many situations throughout my life, I ended up being the mentor to the older person! On some occasions, this is still true today. I did, however, have a wonderful mother and grandmother as examples of deep spirituality and servanthood. I learned most of my “wisdom” from them. I think as teachers, particularly Christian teachers at a Christian school, we have the pressure/blessing of being those mentors to our students. Especially since we teach students who are a little older. They desperately need people who are younger than their parents, who can relate to what they’re going through and their thought processes to be spiritual examples to them on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they don’t get it as much as church or at home. So, the only place left is school! Good blog Matt!


  2. Humbling and scary indeed. I’ve had, and have, mentors personally and professionally that I’ve felt I could confide in and learn from as far as I can remember.

    Our disconnectedness as a society is troubling, and I’m afraid that all these tools that were intended to increase connectivity, dialog, and networking between people, all to often, have us all feeling more disconnected than ever. Our youth, in particular, are being raised in this world with ever-present media and entertainment with no, or at least very little, real world experience outside of the television and computer. There’s something about a face to face conversation that we just can’t have via computer, telephone, etc… and I think the less and less we have these personal, real world interactions, the less we value them.

    I’m not sure how you prepare a generation like that to become adults, Christians, or even good citizens… but I know it’s up to you and I to do it. One little girl (or boy) at a time.


  3. Very well said! Mentors are exactly what our young people need. Modeling behavior that does not challenge spiritually is what is lacking. A good resource for this is Jeff Myer’s ministry called Passing the Baton. It challenges adults to take on mentoring relationships with younger adults . Young people need to see Christianity lived out and modeled.


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