Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Young Adults"

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I'm coming to dislike the "young adult" category that my church uses. I'm starting to think it's baloney. I'm seeing that we're a bunch of whiners, self included. I participated with some "young adults" in a class at a family camp I recently attended. I enjoy the class in many ways, but I was frustrated by what I was observing (and even contributing!)

"Church is Boring. They expect us to do all the work. I don't get spiritually fed when I go to worship. They lump us all in one category, but I'm different."

Even though I chime in on this, and go, "YEAH!" I can't help but think "Get over it!"

I've a lot to say about it. And a lot of theories as to why this seems to be a big deal. I think the following:

1) this is nothing new. All young adults in all eras have faced a challenge in transitioning from being led to being leaders. Sometimes, it's been a quick transition, but not so much now.

2) We expect the church to do stuff for us, like they always did in youth group. They created the worships, provided classes, and set the mood so that we "felt" God. Now, we have to find that for ourselves, and we don't know how, and don't care to put in the effort.

3) God is not a priority. If He were, we would follow His teachings about gathering often with fellow believers (showing up for church/bible study/etc.)

4) Ourselves and our families take priority. That's why we sleep in, and say we don't have time as we run off and go to play group, hang out with friends doing non-god-oriented things, and spend time making money so we can buy ourselves all the stuff we want.

5) We think we can be "spiritual" without spending time communing with other believers, and without spending time in study, prayer, and preparing for God. "spiritual" consists of good feelings about God and a general belief that His is there, will do some of the things that we learned in Sunday school, but isn't particularly involved in our personal lives. We're wrong.

6) We think worship is about us.

7) We think everything religious is about us. It's not. It's about God. It's about serving others. It's about making disciples. It's not about feeling good about ourselves.

8) We are unwilling to accept the criticism and challenge that requires us to move beyond a faith grown from other's efforts to a faith built on our own effort.

9) Deep down, we still think we're kids, and that the adults are in charge.

10) We still see ourselves as the future of the church, when we are the present of the church. This means that we can put things off until we think we've arrived at a time when it's "our" church. Sorry, but it will never be "our" church unless we claim it and change it, or adapt to it now.

11) We are really good at talking the problem to death, and choosing to do nothing (because that requires more commitment than we're willing to give)

12) By separating ourselves into more and more specific age groups, we're doing a disservice to everyone - we can't learn from older folks, and we can't help them re-explore their faith. Our children don't participate in a way that empowers them to be comfortable and consciously minister to others of all ages. I would think that the issues that have faced us for the last 2000 years are more or less the same, and we all use the same scriptures as reference. Why separate by age?

Here in North America, we have a skewed perspective. I go to church, and I think, oh, I don't get anything out of this. I will A) quit going, cause it sucks B) keep going, even though it sucks cause I should (guilt, kids, etc) C) Go to a different church that fills my need. I heard last week a testimony of a young woman from Russia. She has been a member of my denomination for "only" 3 years. Relatively speaking, she probably doesn't know near as much about scripture and history and all the stuff we think is important when we're "raised" in the church. And Yet. She is going back to Russia, and she is starting a new church. WHAT?!? A new church? We don't do that here... We don't build what we're looking for.... We wait for someone else to do it for us! This means that no one will be spoon feeding her faith and God experience to her. It means she'll be offering that to others. This is almost completely oppositet of all the wrong ideas I expressed above. Can you imagine how much courage and faith it takes to step out and start a church where there is none? To start a church where persecution is real, and support comes from God alone? And here we are, without enough faith to even prepare for God on Sunday.

I recognize that not all "young adults" fit into these generalizations of my opinion. Even though I can see that I'm whining about it, I also feel that I'm getting ready to be different. I see the problem, I'm changing, but I'm not all the way to doing anything about it yet.

I look forward to a day when the questions presented by a "young adult" gathering are less me-focused and about the structure of church, and more God focused. When we start asking question like "what did Jesus mean when he said...." and "What is Zion all about?"


Anonymous said...

Here's what I think.

The foundation of faith is inside each individual, NOT inside the church. The church should provide a structure in which to share your faith with others, but when it becomes the source of the faith itself, a lot of problems crop up, much like you're describing above.

I grew up agnostic. I found my faith entirely on my own outside the structure of a church. To me, my faith has very little to do with a church and I don't feel a burning need to identify with a group in order to reaffirm my own faith. I enjoy services and other church activities, but my faith is not reliant on them in any way.

In many others, however, particularly those who were raised with a church and a "youth group" structure being a constant in their lives and with religious activities filling their childhood, I see many people drifting away from church when they reach adulthood, or at least being troubled by the church in many ways.

My feeling is that the trouble comes from what you describe: a childhood filled with structure and organization provided by the church and not a great deal of individual exploration of a belief structure. The church provides the structure, and when the scaffolding of the youth activities is pulled away, quite often the structure of one's faith is not stable and is prone to collapse easily, to take the metaphor to its end. I also believe that it is difficult to ask deep, fundamental questions in a group (within a church) where there are a huge number of assumptions already in place.

I'm not saying youth groups are bad; what is bad is that youths quite often rely on those structures as the basis for their faith and when those structures go away, sometimes the remaining faith isn't as strong as they thought.

The people I've met that have grown up in youth structures and continue to have strong faith are the ones that were encouraged and had the opportunity to explore it: they had friends of different faiths and regularly discussed the basic issues with them.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am a firm believer that a questioning faith is the strongest faith, and that sometimes "groupthink" stifles questioning.

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