O God, my heart is fixed(steadfast, in the confidence of faith); I will sing, yes, I will sing praises, even with my glory [all the faculties and powers of one created in Your image. Psalm 108:1
Is the salvation of youth through Jesus Christ. We understand youth ministry to be that work of the church that is conducted for, with, and by young people.
The Three Stages of Being a Twenty something
By Margaret Feinberg
Do you remember the awkward, acne-filled years of being of an adolescent? Can you the recall the gawky, coming-of-age period filled with off-the-chart hormone surges as you made the rather bumpy transition into adulthood? Think braces. Think growth spurts. Think crushes and prom attire and changes in your body that everyone seemed to know about but no one could explain.
Now try to recall when it ended? Were you an early or late bloomer? Did adolescence end at 16, 18, or 20? Whatever date or age you may try to assign, I believe that there is a second bout of adolescence that many twenty somethings are now facing. I call it post-adult adolescence. And while all hormones and growth spurts may have returned to normal levels, there is still an unmistakable gawky, awkwardness for many twenty somethings who are trying to figure out what it means to be adult. They are caught like deer in the headlights with feeble apologies of "oh-I-didn't-know-that" whenever they sit down with insurance salesmen, bank officers, collection agencies, landlords, and bosses, and as they try to figure out all the things that encompass the responsibilities of being an adult. The twentysomething years are a filled with self-discovery, emotional growth spurts, and learning to navigate the social landscape as an adult. And it is not easy.
It is important to remember that the maturity level and needs of a 21-year-old are very different needs than a 28-year-old. In many regards, while both individuals fall under the umbrella of twenty somethings, there needs could not be any further apart. Early twenty somethings, mid-twenty somethings, and late twenty somethings are facing different challenges. In order to meet their specific needs, you need to know what they are dealing with. Here is a look at the three stages of being a twenty something with insights on how to tailor a ministry to specific needs.
AGES 20-24: WELCOME TO ADULTHOOD
Upon college graduation, young twentysomethings are thrust in the real world. Many twentysomethings have just finished enjoying two to four years of bubble-like existence. Sure, there were friends to be made and final exams, but most college students find their time in school to be an enriching segue into the real world. They can enjoy the freedom that comes from living on their own with enough ties to home to be a safety net for any struggles or failures. (If a twenty something did not attend college, they will go through the same transition only at an earlier age.)
Once they graduate, life changes dramatically. They discover basic truths about life like you have to work, entry level jobs are not always fun, and moving up takes lots of work. They learn that life is expensive, and sometimes they have to move back home in order to get ahead. Many graduates struggle to find friends that compare to their college friendships (which had four years to grow and mature) and cannot quite find a church or community that feels right. Meanwhile, they are often single, wondering when "the one" they have been praying for is going to come along. If they have decided to take a job in a different part of the country, they may experience a sort of culture shock. Texas will shock anyone who grew up in New York City, and Los Angeles will seem like bright lights and big city to any Iowa native. At the same time, they are discovering that there is a lot to learn about life—from choosing a life insurance policy to investing in a 401(k)—and while calling home to mom and dad alleviates a lot of stress and problems it just cannot relieve them all.
So what does this bumpy transition tell you about ministering to young twentysomethings? If you are asking a 23-year-old recent graduate in your congregation how they are doing and they say "just fine", do not believe them! There is a lot they are dealing with and struggling through and trying to figure out beneath the surface. They may be "just fine" one day and completely overwhelmed the next, which is why when they committed to help with your Saturday night service and suddenly cannot make it, you need to remember to be patient and kind. Young twentysomethings are going through more than you will ever know. They are working through awkward moments and overwhelming responsibilities. So be forgiving of small mess-ups. Show grace. And remember that this stage is somewhat short lived, and it too, will pass. Early twentysomethings eventually become comfortable in their jobs, learn the A-B-Cs of investing, and discover that juggling all the balls that comprise adult life is not that bad after all.
AGE 24-27: THE TWENTYSOMETHING CRISIS
After twenty somethings get into the swing of paying their rent on time, figure out how to buy a car, and develop a new social network of friends, they begin to enter a short-lived period of cruising through life. They now feel comfortable with the adult responsibilities that have been thrust upon them, but all too soon they begin to wonder: Is this all there is?
Usually twenty somethings between the ages of 24-27 begin wrestling with something known as the twenty something crisis. The idea was developed by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner in their book Quarterlife Crisis. A quarterlife crisis or twenty something crisis is similar to a midlife crisis, except that it happens 20 years earlier. The authors define it as a response to "overwhelming instability, constant change, too many choices and a panicked sense of helplessness."
In Twenty something, I describe it: "It's what happens when those of us who have experienced nearly two decades in a sheltered school setting are released into a world where there is no definitive or obvious way to get from point A (graduation) to point B (living successfully on our own). The endless list of choices and possibilities invigorates some but proves overwhelming to others. The quarterlife crisis is everything that surfaces when you being asking the question, "What the heck am I doing with my life?" And begin quietly wondering, Who am I? What is my purpose? and Where is God in all this?."
You are inherently going to find twenty somethings involved in your ministry experiencing the twenty something crisis. For some, it is merely a short-lived period of soul searching, but for others it is far more perplexing. Twenty somethings who are experiencing a twenty something crisis are often wrestling with all the options in their life, trying desperately to understand and recognize God's will. They may be trying to avoid growing up, feel overwhelmed by major stress, or disappointed by the way life has turned out so far.
These struggles are normal for twenty somethings today. The questions of significance and legacy that were being raised by forty somethings a generation ago are now being raised by twenty somethings today. If you see a twenty something in your ministry wrestling with the twenty something crisis, encourage them that they are not alone. Remind them that they are wrestling with normal issues, and God has not forgotten them. And remind them that this too will pass. (Provide link to: "A Twenty something Crisis? You've Got to Be Kidding")
AGES 27-29: IN SEARCH OF THE COMPLETE LIFE
Older twenty somethings have long learned to pay their landlord on time. In fact, they may be making mortgage payments. Many have wrestled through the soul-searching questions of the twenty something crisis. They have settled down a bit and passed through the awkward stages related to post-adult adolescence. They are generally comfortable with themselves, or at least as comfortable as they are going to become for a while. For those who are married, they may be looking at establishing a family. But single or married, most twenty somethings between the ages of 27 and 29 are looking to put down roots. They want to establish friendships and relationships within a community and church body that are going to last. They long for authentic relationships that have depth and will last for more than four or five years.
Meanwhile, older twenty somethings are passing through a second stage of personal soul searching in regard to their work. At this age, they have usually garnered the five or more years of work experience need to change companies or seek a promotion. Some are considering returning to graduate school. Others are looking at seminary. The questions that seem to be on the mind of many late twenty somethings are "Where do I go from here?" and "Can I really do it?" Ministers with a word of encouragement and hope during this tender time can make a huge impact on these future leaders.
At the same time, many older single twenty somethings are beginning to look at the issue of marriage and family in new light. Some are frustrated with God for not bringing a spouse into their life. Others are reaching new levels of contentment with singleness. And still others are doing everything they can to find a spouse, as a biological clock suddenly seems to be ticking. Whatever the response, pat answers for tough questions about singleness and sexuality no longer cut it. They are looking for real answers and resolution to issues of acceptance, loneliness, and love.
NOT ALL TWENTY SOMETHING ARE THE SAME<</STRONG/>
While there are three distinct stages which every twentysomething passes through, the age and speed in which individuals linger varies widely. One twentysomething may struggle to understand the complexities of the adult working world overnight while another takes years. One twentysomething may wrestle with the quarterlife crisis for a week while another may take the next five years. Thus, you cannot look at a 27-year-old and automatically know what they are going through. Everyone is different. But recognizing and knowing those differences will help you minister to twentysomethings-no matter what age or stage they are in.