Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.

DECLARING WAR ON EXTENDED ADOLESCENCE

For years, I’ve been saying that, “As a youth pastor, I don’t mind it when a 16 year-old acts 16, what I have great trouble with is when her parent does.”

Well, now I can add to the list of youth ministry angst, the growing trend in America that allows a teenager to extend their development and graduation out of the “kid” world and into the “adult world” well into their late twenties and early thirties. I’m so done with allowing a 25 year-old man to sit around, live at home, play video games, and take a few classes while working part-time at the mall and calling this normal or good. It’s ridiculous and evidently, rampant. Articles like this one in the New York Times last week site multiple examples of what is being waited on as evidence of delayed adulthood:

  • lack of jobs that send a percentage home to live with parents post graduation.
  • extended college degrees and career confusion
  • delayed marriage and 2/3rds choosing to live together instead of get married for several years
  • delayed childbearing/raising
  • lack of responsibility, etc
I recently read an entire treaty on this by Robert Epstein called Teen 2.0. In it, he declares at great length, that not only did Western civilization create the adolescent world, but that it has become an epidemic problem. He says, “there is simply no question that teens throughout history were integrated into adult society much earlier than they are today and that the tumultuous period that defines adolescence today did not exist until recent times.” While there are things I disagree with in his book, I absolutely whole-heartedly agree that it is time to say “NO MORE” to this trend in our culture.
Donald Miller responded to this same NY Times article in a post where he titled it “If 40 is new 30, then 20 is the new junior high?” and suggests what a twenty-something who just got out of bed at noon and is reading Donald’s blog on a laptop which is literally on their lap can do to combat this trend.
Personally, there are days when I’d like to combat it my foot firmly in someone’s backside, but short of that, here’s a few qualitative ways I’m declaring war on this in my own world and ministry:
APPRENTICE ADULTS: Epstein uses this phrase in his book and I love it. My job as a student ministries pastor and as a parent is to work myself right out of a job: to raise up adults. To this end, I’ve begun to see my job less as leading students during a crucial era of their lives, and more as the gatekeeper of a community where students can learn and practice adult roles. I can’t call students to “grow up” unless I’m willing to intentionally provide opportunities for them to do just that.
REDEFINING FAILURE: Failure is not when a student fumbles a task, but rather failure is when an adult holds onto one so tightly, that a student can’t learn it, embrace it, or lead it.
EMPOWER STUDENTS TO TAKE OVER TRADITIONAL “ADULT ROLES” IN OUR MINISTRY: Epstein argues extensively that privilege should be given to kids who show competency, even if that occurs before the age society says they should do it. (For example, he would argue that a kid should be able to stay home alone or drive a car based on something other than an age restriction) Again, while I may not agree entirely with all his suggestions, this year I’m intentionally opening up opportunities for students to teach in small groups, lead serving teams, and mentor their younger peers in other ministries as a few examples.
CHANGING LANGUAGE: I don’t call students “kids” and I’m increasingly dropping “teens” from my language too in favor of “young adults”. I am not calling teens to act like adults, I’m calling people who are already physiologically young adults to assume their mental, spiritual, and relational roles as an adult.
INTENTIONAL TRAINING: Starting in January, we’re meeting 1x a month from 1-4pm for a thing we’re calling “Seminar Sunday”. In it, one of the things we’ll be providing is a class for high school and college age students who want to step into adulthood to begin to learn some specific skills critical to the adult process. We’ll be offering classes on money management, career planning, physical health, spiritual development, relationships, and other elements of healthy adult well-being.
ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY: I have zero tolerance for apathy. I have grace for it, I just won’t create an environment where I’m apathetic to apathy. Laziness, apathy, and empowering/enabling a purposeless life is 100% counter Jesus and Biblical living. I refuse to allow teens to wallow in a stage of life that has held their potential hostage.
CHANGING OUR ADULT TO STUDENT RATIO RADICALLY: I can’t expect students to act like adults if they are only surrounded by teens who display the same maturity, advice, and behavior patterns I’m trying to undo. Currently, it is not uncommon in our weekend service in specific for the ratio of adult to student to be something like 20 or 25 to one. This cannot be if we are ever to create an “other culture” in our ministry.
TEACH HOW TO THINK, NOT WHAT TO THINK: At every turn, I’m trying to raise up a group of young adults who are intentionally wrestling with life and faith to the point of ownership and the ability to articulate their faith for themselves. Our mission states that we are “Inviting a Generation to Understand, Own, and Live out a life-changing faith in Jesus.” I deeply believe that is exactly what I’m called to do.

Comments

  1. Big fan. Love your show.

  2. Brian, good stuff! Fighting the same battles up here. Check out this vid on the topic of men:
    http://goo.gl/zNyF

    Be good!

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