For Christmas we got our 4 year old daughter a cat. Her name is Sophia. Each morning I ask my daughter to go into the garage, get a small bowl of cat food and pour it into Sophia’s food dish. Why do I do this? After all it often times just ends up with cat food all over the floor. Once she dumped the whole thing in the cat’s water dish, causing us to start the whole process over again. Back to the question- why I do this. It’s because I want my daughter to have the life skills of feeding an animal.
Wait, no…that’s not it at all. Actually it’s because I want my daughter to learn responsibility. Pets are fun, but they require work. I don’t want my daughter growing up without a work ethic, without any sense of personal responsibility or without the knowledge that she contributes. It would be easier for me to feed the cat myself, but as it turns out, it would not be best.
We’ll call him “Joe”. Joe is 20, works part time and attends the local community college part time. He has a vision for his life, with some idea of what he wants to do educationally and professionally but he doesn’t know how to accomplish it all. Joe really likes video games. He lives with his parents who still take care of his meals, his bills and his laundry. Joe’s not a bad guy, but he’s definately not yet living like an adult.
Joe really likes Jesus and wants to get better at playing his guitar (Joe’s guitar, not Jesus’). So you ask him to play on the worship team at the church you both attend. Joe can play enough to keep up, but is usually late to practice, doesn’t bring his music and often times has not practiced the songs on his own. As a way of helping him stay on track you text him, call him, email him and “facebook” him (as if facebook is a verb). Yet to your frustration, nothing seems to help. Why do you do it? Because you want Joe to learn to play the guitar and be in the worship band…
Wait, no…that’s not it at all. Actually it’s because you want Joe to learn responsibility. Worship band is fun, but it requires work. You want to help reinforce what Joe’s parents have tried to teach him: that he can’t live life without a work ethic, without any sense of personal responsibility or without the knowledge that he contributes. It would be easier to not have Joe on the team, but as it turns out, it would not be best.
I’m not suggesting that “Joe” should be treated the same as my four year old daughter. After all, the differences are clear and not all young adults are like Joe (some are better..some are worse!). But what I am suggesting is that Joe is the product of a world that has prolonged his adolescent development well into his 20’s. This isn’t to say that he isn’t responsible for his actions, but it is to say that our cutlural context doesn’t force him to take total responsiblity for his life until he’s much older. Joe’s dad and grandfather began living as adult men at a younger age. At the end of the day, we have to ackowledge that college and young adult ministry is a developmental ministry. Much like youth ministries we are dealing with a group of people who are ultimately still searching for identity and purpose. Even though Joe can drive you nuts, hold fast to your expectations of him and in the process, raise the expectations for yourself and the church by demonstrating that love and patience are still fruits of the Holy Spirit.