Dan Duppee is the president of the Coalition for Christian Outreach, a ministry on college campuses in the northeast. I have known of the CCO for a number of years and have been impressed with their work. It’s good to know that LPC offers some modest support for the work of the CCO through our mission budget.
Like many supporters of the CCO, I recently received an email from Dan asking for a little help from his friends. He wrote, As we enter into a new season of ministry to college students, I am working on a new project: a book about how young people make a successful transition to adult faith. And I need your help! Right now, I am in the process of defining what a successful transition looks like.
So he asked us to answer a few questions, the most fascinating of which was:
How do you know when a young adult has successfully transitioned to adult faith?
How might you answer that question?
Behind the question that Dan Duppee asks is the well-documented reality that growing up – transitioning to adulthood – has never been harder. Too many young adults are still not really adults through their 20s and often into their 30’s. We made too many promises and have not been able to keep them.
We told them to go to college and that we would have satisfying and well-paying jobs waiting for them when they graduated. The economy took care of the well-paying jobs and we forgot to tell them that some jobs aren’t fun.
As our kids were growing up we told them that they were special and could do anything they set they hearts on. We created an atmosphere of entitlement and self-satisfaction, of lazy hearts and unworthy dreams, of emotional volatility and relational insecurity.
Like their forever young parents before them, some young people figure they should just skip adulthood.
Of course, even in a bad economy and in the face of the sobering reality that we aren’t so special after all, most young people make it to adulthood. Right now that journey to adulthood may involve an unplanned return to Mom’s and Dad’s house; it may require a hard lesson that most employment perks are earned perks and not given to first year employees. They may go through a devastating episode or two before they realize that commitment trumps feelings in all good relationships. Most young people become adults sooner or later.
But among the Christians, too few young believers become adult believers, mature in their faith and centered on Christ. We teach our kids, whether we know or not, that faith is feeling good about ourselves, that God’s job is to give us what we want, that truth is always subject to revision – revisions that usually favor us, and that in the end we are owed – owed good feelings and what we want from God and the church. A God and a church that cannot or will not deliver what we’re owed is soon abandoned. Almost Christian is how one author describes the kids we’ve raised.
Let me make it clear. I’m not blaming the kids who never make it to faithful adulthood. They’ve turned out exactly how we should have expected them to turn out.
Here’s how I answered Dan Duppee’s question: You know a young adult has successfully transitioned to adult faith when he or she takes responsibility for his or her own spiritual growth, is a contributing member of a worshiping community and is learning to serve the world through the church.
Adult Christians don’t ask how the church might serve them; they ask how they might serve the world through the church.
It’s not just the twenty-somethings that are having a hard time growing up.