Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

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Kenan, Jr. Most of what happens in emerging adulthood works against serious faith commitments and putting down roots in congregations. Most emerging adults are disconnected from religious institutions and practices. Geographic mobility, social mobility, wanting to have options, thinking this is the time to be crazy and free in ways most religious traditions would frown upon, wanting an identity different from the family of origin — all of these factors reduce serious faith commitments.

Interview by Katelyn Beaty. Christianity Today. If anything, college is no different in terms of the faith corrosion outcomes on youth. It may even strengthen the faith of some. We think this is partly about a growing number of evangelical faculty at secular colleges.

Another factor is the increasing presence and legitimacy of campus religious groups and ministries [InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade] that provide support systems — not just fellowship, but also intellectual engagement that may have been lacking in past decades. Most faculty know you cannot say stupidly anti-religious things in the classroom and get away with it. Reflections: How did we get to this moment of disconnection from religious institutions? In the midth century you could say there was a map in place that helped organize society. It featured well-defined units — family, religion, education, government, the military.

Each had boundaries.

How Emerging Adulthood Affects the Church

Each had a role and respected the others. But those boundaries have broken down. Churches have something to say about this.

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They should go back again and again to the drinking well of the gospel and offer a true alternative transcendent story. Smith: I plan to focus on parents. Despite the arguments today that sideline parents by placing great importance on the influence of peer groups and media, we find that parents are still the most powerful sociological force in transmitting spirituality and religion to their children.

Many parents feel inadequate and put-upon, but I hope they realize they still matter. Skip to main content. Reflections: What does religion mean to people these days? Reflections: Can churches be a counterforce? Reflections: Still, you find apathy about church. Reflections: Where does your research take you next? In , over two-thirds of young adults had attained all five of these markers by the age of 30; by the year , this was true of less than half of females and less than a third of males.

A number of social and cultural factors have contributed to delaying these traditional adult markers. The cultural message that the college years are fundamentally a time for exploration and self-development, coupled with a global economy requiring prolonged education and transience in the workplace, compels many young adults to delay marriage.

Christian Smith, Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

Such demands diminish the stability and funding usually desired for starting a family cf. With easy and reliable birth control, marriage is no longer viewed as a necessary precursor to sexual intimacy. For those who enter emerging adulthood with a fund of familial, psychological and financial resources, the emerging adult years can be exhilarating. However, since the journey to adulthood is far less scripted by cultural and generational norms, many feel an overwhelming sense of personal responsibility.

Such anxiety tends to promote the fear, depression, emotional paralysis, and various forms of addiction and escapism witnessed all too often in these years cf. On most measures of belief and practice, emerging adults score lower than any other age category, signaling a lack of purposeful engagement with Christian formation.

Whereas the church might remain hopeful that emerging adults will return once they settle down and start a family, the prolonged hiatus of a decade or more between youth group and parenthood and the affiliations and influences forged while away from Christian community may be increasingly difficult to overcome. Furthermore, while Christian belief may not be altogether jettisoned during these years, the form of faith that comes to be embraced may be rather innocuous, devoid of the transformation that alters the affections of the heart.

Influenced by MTD, a majority of emerging adults view God as a distant creator who desires humans to be nice, fair, and fully tolerant of each other, intervening in human affairs only when called upon to bestow blessings or resolve problems.

The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

The purpose of life, forged under the influence of MTD, is to secure personal happiness, self-fulfillment, and a degree of goodness sufficient to earn entrance to heaven upon death. Far too often, churches have been complicit in promoting MTD, resulting in a guiding ethic that is impoverished morally, vocationally, and relationally. Many come to rely on moral intuition gained in childhood, making moral decisions purely on the basis of avoiding negative consequences.

Despite these troubling signs, there are indications that some emerging adults are reaching for meaning that transcends personal advancement and self-interest.

Young Souls in Transition - Emerging Adults and the Church - The Christian Post

Many exemplify a renewed passion for social justice and compassion for the downtrodden, a yearning to bring the redemptive power of the gospel to bear on a broader range of personal and social issues. Others appear to be reconnecting with ancient liturgical forms and adopting stricter moral and doctrinal creeds to counter the diffuse permissiveness of contemporary American culture C.

Still others recognize that their high idealism, eager creativity, and freedom to exercise their voice need the guidance of mentors and communities of truth to nourish their visions for the future. These intergenerational alliances, bolstered by the energy of young adults and the growing connections they have to the global world, hold great promise for revitalizing churches, spawning revivals, and energizing missionary movements.

However, if this energy is to be fully harnessed for the furtherance of the kingdom, the church will have to convince emerging adults of its relevance and provide a more credible witness to the gospel. Fearing the exodus of so many you people from the pews, the church has grown frantic in asking how to get more people to come to church. Our multiple proposals may betray a neglect of a deeper, underlying theological question: Why should people come to church? What does the church have to offer? Often the message communicated to college students through evangelistic campaigns is that salvation involves a quick and effortless prayer exchange between a person and Jesus, a simple transaction securing eternal life. These ancient practices anchored Christians against the countervailing forces of culture, and they may provide the antidote to the loss of ecclesiological vision among twenty-somethings today.

Didache : The availability of great sermons, presentations, and music from the internet contributes to the sense that church is superfluous and unnecessary to some emerging adults.