Sunday, July 12, 2015

Young Adults Aren't Ruining Your Church

     I recently had a birthday, and now I'm officially no longer a teenager, which is something I'm pretty happy about, because I was really starting to outgrow that phase of life. Now, I guess I am what society calls a "young adult", a label that often comes with negative connotation when spoken by "older adults", and unfortunately, sometimes within the church. 
     For example, I googled the phrase "young adults in church", and the results I got were even more harsh than I expected. Of the top 6 results, 4 were about young adults leaving the church, one was about how to increase young adult participation, and the sixth was a particularly spiteful piece entitled "Reaching out to young adults will screw up your church" (The author didn't capitalize the whole title so I left it that way). I skimmed this article to get an idea of what this author was talking about, and although I think they were just attempting to ruffle some feathers and start a conversation, I was not impressed. The following is my response to all of these negative words about a group that I consider myself part of.
     I consider myself a young adult, and I don't believe I am ruining, or even hurting, my church. I am in an awkward phase of being to old for youth group but still trying to be a role model and being present when I think it will be helpful, and also being the youngest person present when I participate in non youth group activities. There isn't really anyone my age who actively attends my church, but I still feel very comfortable there because I've learned how to interact with people who are both younger and older than me. I have been taught to respect my elders, and I enjoy learning from people who have more experience and wisdom than I do. I also am particularly proud of our youth, and even though they are younger than me, I learn so much from them and I'm so proud of the way they share their faith at an age when it is extremely difficult and scary to do so.
It is easy to get caught up in the trend our society has created and say the phrase "young adult", with contempt, shaking your head and picturing all of the chaos we might create, but I urge you to consider a different perspective. Now, I try not to be to obvious talking about specific people on my blog, but I think in this case it would be helpful to have real examples of young adults in the church who have made a positive impact on my life. I know many of you who read this will know exactly who I'm talking about even though I tried my best to be vague, and I considered leaving this part out for that very reason, but I decided it was important, so I hope you will not lose sight of the point of this whole article because it contains some obvious specific references to real people who you may know.
When I was still an awkward high school student, someone who would fit the young adult description became one of my youth leaders, and it was one of the best things that happened for me and my personal faith during that phase of my life. At that age, it was so inspiring to see someone not too much older than me make an intentional effort to be an active part of our church. It taught me that my twenties don't have to be a time where I go wild and depart from the church, creating memories that I will discuss as examples of what not to do when I'm ready to leave those wild times behind and rejoin the congregation. I can think of several other people in our congregation who have disproved society's harsh theory, and shown me that outgrowing youth group does not have to result in a temporary end to my participation in our church family. 
Young adults aren't ruining your church. If your church is like mine, they aren't your biggest demographic, but they are powerful. They are an inspiration to youth, who otherwise might think that young adulthood and church are not compatible. When I was an impressionable youth, I had young adults in my church to look up to, and now that I myself have entered this new phase of life, I will try my best to follow the strong example of leadership and participation in the church that they set for me. I am a young adult, and I will not ruin the church. 

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