A blog post by Luke Halverson
What is one thing I have noticed about young adults?
Early on in the book of Job, Satan is granted power over Job’s life. From Job losing his children to having sores inflicted all over his body, Job endured enormous amounts of pain and loss. When Job’s friends heard of his pain, they sought to comfort him, but when they saw Job, they just sat with him for seven days and seven nights without speaking a word to him. They didn’t offer a ten step -- or even a three step -- plan to help him get out of it. They just sat with him.
Like the situation with Job and his friends, this is what I have seen young adults do exceptionally well in ministering to their peers and to youth. Young adults have the passion and capability to just “be with” others regardless of their own experience or what answers they can offer.
So often we try to provide the right answer -- a faithful message that makes sense in times of doubt, a healing word of advice during times of struggle, or a message that can transform undesired behavior. However, most of the time the “right words” may not even exist, and all we can do is be present and “be with” people where they are.
This past summer we had a counselor lose her mom to a long battle of cancer. We had another counselor who struggled with severe depression and at times couldn’t find any self value. I know I didn’t have answers, but that’s where the power of “being with” or relational ministry began. Here I saw the willingness of their peers to just “be with” them regardless if they felt equipped or could even understand what the other was experiencing. Christ was more present and powerful within this context than if someone had the text book answers. It follows the idea that sometimes the less we do, the more Christ can.
I’ve seen this in the same way counselors interact with and impact youth in the camp setting. Countless times I have seen kids have their faith sparked solely from counselors just “being with” them. The counselors didn’t need to articulate faith perfectly. They didn’t have to have the most fun or the most dynamic personality. They didn’t have to provide the best advice. If they just focused on “being with”, faith could be ignited.
Witnessing this has greatly impacted the way I hire and train young adults. It has impacted how I strive to lead young adults and even who I strive to be as a husband and father. One of my biggest prayers for my life of ministry is that the young adults I work with can say I was with them through whatever they endured. I know I won’t always be able to give the advice they need or encourage them for life's toughest circumstances, but I know that by being present and being with them, the Holy Spirit can work with that. I’ve learned this more so from viewing young adults interacting with their peers and with youth than anywhere else.
What does that mean for meaningful ministry?
The theology, time, and effort we put into programs and curriculums for youth are incredibly important, but transformational ministry begins with relationships. This isn’t ground breaking news, but focusing on safe, fun, faith-filled, and relational settings are crucial for meaningful ministry. This is why I believe so strongly in camping ministry and its partnership with the church.
So the next time I am writing a Bible study for counselors to lead, will I worry about the structure, details, and overall message so much? Probably, but I will also trust in what young adults can do so well -- cultivate relationships that instill trust and faith in our Lord Jesus. I believe that young adults will always be one of the closest connections and best resources we have to ministering our youth.
What might young adults’ engagement with church/religion and spirituality teach the greater church?
The past eight years I have worked with some incredible followers of Jesus, but for many their faithfulness does not always reflect their membership or current connection to a church. Most are tied in with strong Christian communities somehow, but it may not come on Sundays. This generation of young adults seems to be perceived as lazy and indifferent on issues of faith, but from my experience that’s not true.
Many young adults are seeking communities, resources, or environments that foster strong Christian faith lives (small group Bible studies, on campus ministries, online resources, etc.). Those practices just may not look the same or support the structure of the church that I have experienced and grew up with.
I currently live in Amery, WI, with my wife Clare and two beautiful daughters, Faith and Signe. This is my ninth year as the Camp Wapo Program Director. I have a passion for camping ministry that is biblically grounded, Spirit led, incredibly fun, and that relates to and supports the church. Probably my favorite part of being a camp program director are the relationships with the camp staff year in and year out.