Here at Eternity Bible College, we are passionate about keeping the local church at the center of what we do. We don’t always do it perfectly, but we keep driving that direction. In light of that, we require every one of our students, including our online students all over the world, to be involved in a local church and have a local church mentor. This mentor is typically an older, wiser person who can guide our students in making decisions, debrief what they are learning, and offer general life counsel.
The importance of this mentoring role cannot be overemphasized. I could spend a lot of time just pointing out the examples of mentoring in Scripture (an equivalent term would be ‘discipleship’) and I may do that in future blog posts. But I want you to consider mentoring in terms of this current culture of young adults, or ‘emerging adults’ as Sharon Daloz Parks calls them in her landmark book Big Questions Worthy Dreams.
“For large numbers of emerging adults, decision-making now occurs through the Internet or at bars, at parties, in cityscapes where emerging adults congregate in typically homogenous, age-determined subcultures. Emerging adults are making major decisions in individual and improvisational ways without the resources of support and stability that a mature and healthy culture could be expected to provide.”
We see this all the time in the high-caliber students that God continues to bring us. They are passionate for God; they are willing to sacrifice much for the sake of advancing the kingdom; but they lack skills in making mature decisions. Thus we want them involved in a local church, which is in fact that ‘mature and healthy culture’ where one can grow, learn, make mistakes, and find mature and godly wisdom.
Now, unfortunately, not all local churches actually do provide a ‘mature and healthy culture’ for emerging adults to grow in. That is often the very reason they seek out their own age groups in bars or on the Internet. Their own age group understands them and accepts them as they are. They tend to listen to their peers and make decisions based on peer counsel. Which is certainly not all bad, for emerging adults often do have amazing wisdom beyond their years. But the input and counsel of the older, wiser man or woman is essential in their proper development.
All too often, the church expects emerging adults to already be mature and grown up, to already have the wisdom of many years of life, and does not offer a safe environment for them to question the things that we ‘older’ believers tend to hold so dear. But emerging adults need to ask hard questions. They need to question existing values, and beliefs, and culture. They need to run their ideas and concerns past older, wiser adults. They need to make decisions with the counsel and wisdom of life experience. And they need to do these things without being judged and criticized. If the church does not provide that stable, safe, accepting environment, then the church will lose this generation. That is a very scary prospect.
So I issue a challenge to local church leaders all over the world: embrace your emerging adults. Mentor them, disciple them, let them ask hard questions, listen to them without fear and without judgment. You could even check out our Resources for Local Church Mentors page on our website for ideas on how to get started. Study the example of Jesus. Make 2 Timothy 2:2 your theme verse. And you might just discover, as you invest in emerging adults, that you are more blessed than they are, and do more growing than they do!