He is bright and charming. I always enjoy visiting with him. He's been out of college several years now, living with some other guys in the community. He clearly loves Jesus. He has a job but not a career or vocation; that's eluded him. He dates, but is not ready to commit to marriage. He worships, sometimes with us, sometimes with other churches, and sometimes just lets Sunday go by. He is in a Bible study with other guys but he also likes to party. When he shows up he give 110% to a project, but then vanishes after it's over.
I could just as well be talking about her as him. I have names and faces for these ones in my community I know and love, but who defy ministry categories I have used over the years: not youth ministry, not college ministry, not newly-weds, not singles (looking for love), ....what? David Brooks coined the term "Odyssey Generation" in a NYT's article months ago I blogged on. Then today Peter Steinfels in the NYT's wrote an article entitled" "Adulthood is Coming Later. Now for the Cause, and Consequences." In the article he reviews a book I recently read and enjoyed, Robert Wuthnow's "After the Baby Boomers; how 20 and 30-somethings are shaping the future of American religion" and a new article in "Books and Culture" by Christian Smith looking at this demographic community he calls "emerging adulthood."
Both authors mark the change of maturation sequence: adolescence, college, career, dating, engagement, marriage, then sex. The sequence has been profoundly disrupted for the majority (63% of young adults who are sexually active) of these young adults. The sequence now is adolescence, sex, college, job, cohabitation, and maybe marriage. Smith says that Wuthnow does not grasp what it means for congregations that value chastity before marriage and young adults who are sexually active, possibly cohabiting and spiritually hungry.
As I read and reflect on these two authors I think of those in my community who are hungry for God but not always in the way that we in the church package faith. How do we listen intently without compromising? Personally I think it is a mission field/ ministry arena I need to listen to more deeply.