For the past few months, I have been rather perplexed by the juxtaposition of two songs on one of my playlists. I downloaded the first because of how both its lyrics and musicality depict reality of pain in human relationships. I downloaded the second because of how it captures a sense of hope. While attending the Emerging Adulthood Consortium, hosting on Trinity’s campus over the weekend and gathering over 100 church leaders, I wondered if these two songs could help me articulate my major insight from the event.
As somewhat of a novice on the topic of Emerging Adulthood, I listened eagerly to speakers Rick Dunn and Jana Sundene, the two plenary speakers. They began by giving an overview of Emerging Adulthood, inviting us to look at the Emerging Adulthood through the lenses of Biblical theology, brain development, economic development, and social development, continually reminding us of opportunities for the Church to engage Emerging Adults. They then highlighted a framework for engaging In our relentless pursuit of and passionate love for emerging adults, we may do well to function as a place of rest, where they can come home to and experience the truth of the Gospel.emerging adults, a framework described in their book, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults. Based on their own church experience, Rick and Jana offered us two distinct models of ministry to emerging adults. In our final session together, they offered suggestions for empowering emerging adults for ministry.
Throughout the main sessions as well as two professional development workshops I attended, I sensed a cadence of challenge and call. By challenge, I mean not only the challenges faced by emerging adults but also the challenges presented for older generations to connect with them. By call, I mean the call of Church to engage emerging adults as part of the family of God for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
During the Consortium, the cadence of challenge and call was a rhythmic cadence, meaning we seemed to move from one to the other at a steady pace throughout our two days together. In life, the cadence of challenge and call is also a harmonic cadence, meaning it seeks some sort of resolution. But how? How can the Church heed her call to engage emerging adults?
Here’s where I believe the two songs I mentioned can help us. The first song is A Great Big World’s “Say Something” (featuring Christina Aguilera). The chorus painfully pleads
Say something I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something I’m giving up on you
To me, the words of this song could be those sung by emerging adults to the Church. As we learned in the Consortium, many emerging adults feel like the Church is out of touch and irrelevant. They resist institutions and programs yet, at the same time, crave authentic relationships with older and wiser Christians in community.
How will the Church respond? Will we respond with silence – silence as a symptom of apathy or silence as a symptom of ignorance? Or will we respond with a message of hope?
I love Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” precisely because of its message of hope in the midst of relational challenges. Could the Church respond to emerging adults by saying,
I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
Could the Church be relentless in her pursuit of emerging adults, even in the midst of navigating challenging relationships? Could the Church passionately love emerging adults, while clinging to the hope of the Gospel and looking to Christ?
Even if the Church says something, that “something” needs to be informed by current wisdom on emerging adulthood. Much of that wisdom will come from studies on millennials and emerging adults, resources by emerging adulthood researchers like Jeffery Arnett, and ministry strategies from thoughtful Christians like Rick Dunn and Jana Sundene as well as David Setran and Chris Kielsing. I believe we can find some wisdom for ministering to emerging adults in the second verse of Mraz’s song as well:
And when you’re needing your space
To do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find
In our relentless pursuit of and passionate love for emerging adults, we may do well to function as a place of rest, where they can come home to and experience the truth of the Gospel. And may we offer such hospitality with humility and grace. As Mraz sings, “We’ve got a lot to learn / God knows we’re worth it.”