Delayed Adulthood = Delayed Discernment of Call

twixters

Photo from Time Magazine. Jan. 2005.

Have you ever experienced something you don’t want to be true, but in your heart of hearts you know that it has already happened?  Have you ever observed a visible, tangible shift in the tides and wanted desperately for them to stop shifting out from underneath you?

Every single day, serving, teaching, coaching, mentoring 18-22 year olds on a Christian college campus in the middle of the Bible belt, I see the shift.  It is real and present and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

I haven’t heard anyone speak about it.  I haven’t seen anything published on it.  I haven’t even had conversations about it, except with a few of my closest colleagues. Nevertheless, I know it is there.  I know it is happening.  I know it is going to impact local churches and theological education for the coming generation.

What is it?  What is the shift I am so concerned about?  Here is my purely anecdotal hypothesis:

I firmly believe the prolonging of adolescence and the corresponding delay of entrance into adulthood is radically impacting Christian young people from hearing, discerning, and surrendering to the call of vocational ministry.

I recently heard Dr. Meg Meeker, M.D., founder of The Strong Parent Project and author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters share research that the new entrance into adulthood is 25 years old.

For previous generations, it was much younger.  For the Builders and Boomers, it was 18 when you could vote, move out, and be drafted.  For Gen. X, it was 21 when you finished college and could legally drink.  For Millennials, it has shifted again to 25 years old when a young adult is finished with college, maybe finished with grad school, and is getting established in their first career position.

This change has been recognized by many, especially educators and employers of younger adults.  We see it everyday.  Calling an 20 years old an adult is socially correct because they are not kids and calling them such is offensive.  The label teenager is so passe.  Putting the “you are an adult” spin on it helps a bit, but they don’t feel like an adult.  They have no desire to be an adult at this stage.  Adulthood is some far off, distant experience that comes after you get out of college, find a job, possibly get married and have to pay real world bills.

This delay touches all sorts of things in our society.  It touches the economy.  It touches the first-time home buyers age.  It significantly touches the thought of marriage and parenting.

We have more students in graduate school than ever before.  More young adults living at home with their parents for years after finishing college.  More young adults pushing back repayment of their student loans because they can’t find adequate employment in the struggling job market.  There are jobs to be had, but they don’t pay enough to support independence.

The delay also touches something near and dear to my heart: hearing, discerning and surrendering to God’s call for vocational ministry.

When mature, faithful, Christian college students are considering their career and future, I am fervently praying God will speak to their hearts about the possibility of surrendering to the call to vocational ministry.  Whether in cross-cultural missions, church planting, church revitalization, pastoral leadership, kids ministry, student ministry, non-profit work, community restoration, para-church organizations or any  type of kingdom-building work.

But if they are not entering adulthood until 25, I believe they are struggling to consider, to discern, to surrender to the call God may be putting on their life.

As they are delayed in their social, emotional, economical, psychological maturity, I see a corresponding delay in their spiritual maturity.  I find this to be particular true among Christian young men.

The problem I face is that I teach Christian ministry and leadership to primarily 18-22 year old college students.  That is my mission.  That is what I believe God has called me to do in this world.  But I am seeing less and less of them stroll through our hallways and into my classroom.

I wonder if any other Christian college theology or ministry professor is seeing the same phenomenon among their students.

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Do I Have to Get the Ring by Spring?

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Do I Have to Get the Ring by Spring?  Written by Joey Bomia. Senior Educational Ministries student.

Why are Christian college students more likely to get married after they graduate or soon after graduation? Is it possible that ones who are receiving their education from the Christian university rather than the state university feel pressured into marriage? I’ve noticed many of my peers and college friends have their weddings soon after graduation, so what is it that makes this “ring by spring” phenomenon seem so prevalent on Christian universities?

First off, it is not that they are forced into the marriage relationship. However, they desire to have that commitment one day and will there ever be a better time than when there are thousands of Christian singles all around you? Probably not. I’ve noticed a couple of pressures that may rush students into this big decision. Here are a few reasons why they want to have that relationship and to have it post-graduation.

1   The sexual pressure is a real deal. Sexual relations and encounters are the biggest temptation of sin that the young man and woman face. College is where the “hook-ups”, “one night stands”, and “friends with benefits” all run rampant across campuses everywhere. It’s the time where freedom from parents and restrictions create doors that the Christian student shouldn’t be opening.  Many will and have rushed into their wedding ceremony because they want to have sex with each other. That sounds blunt, but it’s the truth. Purity is important to some students. They will rush into this commitment to save it.

2.  Christian students see more importance and value on marriage. The reality of spending the rest of your life with someone may seem scary for some, but I think it is very appealing to the young college student especially to the Christian one. Christian students have grown up seeing biblical examples of marriage everywhere. When they picture the future, they see a family. It’s almost seen as non-biblical to the Christian single if they don’t pursue the marriage relationship.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2:24

3. There is a degree of “I’ve gotta fix this.”  All of us know the devastating statistic that 1 in 2 marriages will end in a divorce. Our society has lost the respect and commitment to the marriage relationship. I think the Christian college student desires to have a healthy, Christ-centered marriage that will last “until death do us part.” Many students in this generation have come from broken homes and split marriages; they want to see a better future for themselves.

4.  Fear of forever singleness. The thought of being alone and single forever scares people. There may not be a more opportune time to tie the protection and stability knot. There is that chance of not finding anyone that you want to spend the rest of your life with and I think many are dreading that thought on campuses everywhere. Why is the marriage commitment so surreal on the Christian campus?  It’s all about how students picture marriage. Christian students view marriage as an example of the Gospel and the relationship between Jesus and His bride. Non-Christian students view marriage as a restriction. They would rather receive the full benefits of cohabitation rather than being in full commitment to one person.

5.  Ministry and the church make the single feel uncomfortable. The single will be consumed by a congregation full of couples. Some churches won’t hire ministers if they aren’t married. Members of the church will begin to try hooking-up the young single with people. There are many classes in the church for couples, family, etc., but a lack of outreach to the young single. Single ministers lack the support that a spouse will give. All of these are more reason for the young single college student to get married.

This is a commitment that should be taken with much diligence, prayer, and discernment from Almighty God. One that many take lightly and should be taken with much carefulness. I pray for the young college student who decides to get married and that marriage would be God honoring to those all around.