Who are we dealing with when we generalize college students with terms like “college students” or “young adults”. Recently our denominational office of young adult ministry was renamed “early adult ministry” (at least that’s what they changed their Facebook name to). What does the life of an early/young adult look like? What does the life a college student look like?
I’d like to say that students who are currently attending college are the most homogeneous. But realistically that may not even be true. The reality is that in the western world, the life stage of early/young adulthood is incredibly complex. Just for clarification I’m talking specifically about how their living their life, as opposed to the general life stage characteristics of late-adolescence (which are common to all people, even if heavily effected by our topic here).
At one point the church just called them college/career people. To some extent this still describes them, although not well. Personally I do not like that terminology for reasons I’ll spare you from. Suffice it to say that there are too many options now to be summed up in college or career. Come to think of it, it would be nice if it were that easy. A few years ago I was working with a team of volunteers to think critically about this age group in our church. We came up with something like 15 different possible classifications of a young adult. Here are a few:
College students (duh)
Junior college students (our church campus is like five blocks from a huge Junior College, and as you probably know, this is totally different from being at a four-year college)
Career People (they just went out and got jobs right after college…interesting that they figured out how to make money without spending it first)
Lazy pot-smoking video game player on his mom’s couch (the kid who literally doesn’t do anything)
The missionaries (these are the students who just keep going on missions. YWAM, Peace Corps, whatever.)
The graduate student
Young marrieds (they just couldn’t wait!)
Anyway, the list goes on. Notice that some are bad and some are good. Most are what you make of them. Some churches will find themselves in a situation where they can focus on one particular group. For instance a church in a town with a major 4 year college might focus on 18-22 year old college students from that school. Though again, while this may narrow your target, there are still sub groups within that school. My location affords me the diversity of all those listed and a few more.
If there’s a silver bullet to solve this problem, I haven’t found it. But I’ve found some freedom in recognizing obstacles and trying to address them in whatever ways I can. What about you, do you find yourself in a context where you can focus or where there is great diversity?