In August, I will begin my 10th year in young adult ministry. I share this because this is a personal big deal. After a decade of spending countless hours with 18-20somethings, I still feel like I am learning the basics. Every day is a new challenge with new questions. Nevertheless, I am thankful that God invited me to join Him in reaching this generation.
One of my regular soapboxes is that local churches need to make room for young adults to lead. I truly believe in the power of multi-generational leadership within faith communities. If we look close enough we can see this happening all over the scriptures from Moses and Joshua, Samuel and David, the young disciples of Jesus as well as Paul and Timothy. We need young, big-dream leaders just as much as we need older, wisdom-earned leaders. Since we tend to have more on the older side at the moment, I feel that my place is to cheer on those who are emerging and will one day lead in the place of many legends.
But lately I am a little annoyed by the young adult leader conversation. It seems that what used to be about closing in on a generational gap has now become a ‘special interest group’ within the church. I am seeing a lot of action that looks to me like young adult ministry as the ends, versus the means. I may be wrong, but I did not sign up for a young adult coup d’etat (or takeover) of the Church. Why? Four brief reasons.
1. Young adults tend to be great dreamers but are still learning how to keep the passion when it comes to getting the work done.
2. Young adults tend to be extremely loud and activistic about their opinions until it cost them a personal dream or two.
3. Young adults expect all of the support on the front end but have hard time paying it forward when needed.
4. Young adults are in need of mentoring through age 35, but expected to have their entire lives figured out by the time they are 25.
I do believe in empowering the next generation, but not at the cost of pushing out all of the ‘gray hairs’. (All due respect, the Scriptures speak highly of having gray hair!) Young adults are not ready to lead the Church all by themselves, no matter how loud, bright, passionate, inspiring or crafty they might be. What young adults need is to be with the established generation as decisions are made for the Church. They need real opportunities to cultivate faithfulness combined with strong mentoring and appropriate rewards. They just want to be where the action is, and many of them want to be there with older leaders who have a multi-generational vision for the Church in our day.
If you are a young adult reading this, be challenged by this post and go find an older leader, ask them to meet you for coffee and say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Just listen to their earned wisdom and experience.
If you are not so young, do what someone did (or should have done) for you when you were a young aspiring leader. Go find a young adult, take them to lunch and find out what their dreams are…then look for a way to help them get there.
Every generation needs each other. That is the kind of Church I think Jesus would be proud to see.