Commentary: Young adult crisis needs church's response
10/3/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
This commentary may be used as a sidebar to story #469. A photograph of Ciona Rouse is available.
A UMNS-UMC.org Commentary
By Ciona Rouse*
United Methodists can handle a crisis.
We may not be
prepared for every crisis. After all, the spontaneous and critical
nature of a crisis usually implies some lack of preparation. I have
witnessed, however, that United Methodists are some of the first people
who respond by rallying rescue teams to the scene, combining our
resources and offering prayers and ministry to people in hardship.
So when I see our response to a crisis among my peers, I know we are equipped and must do more.
is the crisis of the young adult population. Cleverly termed the
"quarterlife crisis" by writers Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner in
their book Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your
Twenties, the period of life after high school or college can cause
absolute shock in a young person's life.
Maybe it comes as no
surprise that young adults experience difficulty during this time of new
responsibility, decision making, career uncertainty, relationship
changes and self-discovery. My mom reminds me that she, too, was there
years ago. It's just a process of life, she tells me.
This may be
true. As young adults today experience this phase of life, however,
cultural changes have heightened its critical nature. Young adults may
find themselves confused and frustrated. As my mother went through this
time, she had a community of faith to support her. I am afraid this is
not true for many young adults today.
Though we still have room
to grow in youth ministry, the United Methodist Church has learned how
to provide ministries that meet high school and junior high students
where they are.
Older adults also seem to find Bible studies and other ministries shaped specifically for their spiritual needs.
what do we have in between? Usually there is nothing. In fact, we lose
many active youth who graduate from the youth group and do not return to
church until after they are 30.
Young adults who do stay
connected to the church often try to fit into older adult ministries or
volunteer to work with the youth in order to find a place in the church.
Still many find very little fulfillment.
have singles ministries and encourage young adults to be a part of these
programs, where marital status - not age or life experience - is the
only common denominator. Then married young adults still feel
disconnected as their situations differ from those of older married
The problem is not that young adults do not want to
interact or worship with older adults. We learn from each other across
generational lines, and ministry is done regardless of age. In fact, the
Sunday school class I attend is a group of young adults who look
forward to the time we spend with our partner class, a group in which
nearly every member was born before 1945.
The reality is that
young adults have specific needs and ways of approaching faith that the
United Methodist Church must meet, or we will find a generation of
people disillusioned by faith and disconnected from church communities.
solution is not to create gimmicks or make drastic changes in an
attempt to market to young adults. The solution lies in the church
saying to young adults that they matter to the life of the church, and
we are going to make the Gospel relevant to their life and culture. It's
the church creating ministries addressing the varied and changing
realities of young adults. It's saying that our gifts and graces are
important to the life of the church.
It's saying that the church
realizes young adults are in a critical period of life, and the United
Methodist Church is going to respond.
# # #
*Rouse is the director of the Shared Mission Focus on Young People, an initiative of the United Methodist Church.
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