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.