Spiritual Challenges of Emerging Adults

Spiritual Challenges of Emerging Adults

How to minister to the unique spiritual needs of 18- to 30-year-olds
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Be a truth teller so they can connect with God's wisdom. A young man asked me (Rick) to help him share Christ with his unbelieving fiancÉe. He was convinced that if I spent time with her, she would become more open to the gospel. After a period of time, I discerned that he was seeking to manipulate a religious outcome rather than submitting to the heart of God for his life—and for hers as well. Therefore, I agreed to spend time with her on one condition: he had to call off the engagement, explaining to her that he loved her but that his love for Christ was greater. I told him that if he really wanted his fiancÉe to see the value and worth of Christ, he should demonstrate this to her in his own life before asking me to talk with her. Speaking truth can be hard, but it's essential. (Note, however, that responding to a disciple in such a confrontational manner should not be done casually; being blunt and bold must be coupled with both discernment and compassion.)

Connect them to other growing adults. Help emerging adults gain a vision for connecting with others for interdependent, life-giving spiritual growth. Examine their connection to the virtual community of believers, and help them see how they might take advantage of online connections for encouragement in faith matters. Refocus adults who are overwhelmed by transitional challenges by connecting them to the wisdom of the community. Take time to explore with them how connection to the local body can provide support through resources or presence in times of need or confusion.

One emerging adult woman we know belongs to a women's group that deeply fulfills the definition of peer discipleship. This steady, consistent, godly group of women meets regularly and is committed to being present in each other's lives in order to support each other and call each other upward in Christ. In each group meeting they seek to identify the issues that lead them away from their loving Creator. Their work is to lovingly yet firmly lead each other back into a place of unhindered connection with him. For each woman, this involves self-awareness, confession, integrity, and a willingness to allow others to speak into her life. For the group, it means a willingness to be discerning and intentional about reflecting reality—whether that is helping each other see areas of hidden sin or gain a clearer picture of God's grace.

Ultimately, the group calls them to a vulnerable place of submission to God's loving leadership in their lives. Their pursuit of life with Christ is a beautiful picture of courageous and caring interdependence. Of this close-knit circle of believers, our friend says, "God uses this group of women as one way to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, and to continually turn my focus back to him."

Empower them with skills that are needed to pursue spiritual growth goals. Skills needed might be "holy habits" like solitude, deeper Bible study, or prayer. Or they may be skills that counter spiritual erosion such as decision making, problem solving, spiritual-warfare strategies, or apologetics. As emerging adults assess purpose and impact, assist them in forming a balanced perspective or in setting new goals.

Spiritual growth is holistic. The development of trust, submission, and love reaches all aspects of our lives; becoming like Christ involves our whole self. Thus, holy habits also need to be formed in beliefs, attitudes, relationships, and approaches to life. We believe Scripture, prayer, and worship are central to becoming like Christ, but Bible study is not something that should be limited to a 15-minutes-a-day quiet time (though this may be helpful too). Instead it should inform us and be consulted by us as we go through our day. Indeed, we cannot surrender to the Father's wisdom if we don't know what he has said in his Word. And the act of surrender at any point is worship. Therefore, emphasize an integrated, whole-life approach to these disciplines—which is how they ought to be practiced in our lives.

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