First Third Conversations

What Does All This Mean?

ContemplateA blog post by Terri Elton

We’ve spent the month wandering through ideas, insights, resources, and research on younger adults, their understanding of faith, and implications for ministry. Each post offered a picture, a snap shot, of what’s important and meaningful for younger adults today.

We were reminded that Martin Luther was a younger adult when he reformed the church; we got a picture of the breadth and depth with which younger adults engage in ministry, among their peers and with others ; research lifted up the importance of community, internalizing one’s faith, and incorporating faith into daily life as significant factors for the long-term integration of faith in younger adults; and we were challenged to cultivate spaces were curiosity could help all of us discover God in new and imaginative ways

Amazing nuggets. Helpful insights. Grounded reflections. But what does all this mean?

I have a vision of the church and a vision for ministry with younger adults. This vision is one in which Christianity is a way of life, lived in and amidst various communities. This vision fits a post-modern world well, where organizations are important but fluid and where accessibility is dictated less by title and information and more by relational terms and attitudes. At its core, this vision asks the question the first century disciples were asking -- How are we Christians to live in light of and in response to the Resurrection?

This vision reaches beyond one understanding of how God’s people are to organize and strives toward imagining a holistic expression of faith, a faith with both personal and communal expressions. And as I listen and read, participate and reflect on ministry with younger adults, I hear a cry for a similar vision. This is my vision of the church and my vision for ministry with younger adults.

I’m drawn to engage younger adults in conversations of faith, in shared expressions of ministry, and in wondering how we live our call to embody our faith in the world. Perhaps this is because I have a front row seat, in my teaching and in my home. Perhaps it is because I’m wired to hang out with, appreciate, and be curious about younger adults. Perhaps. And while these things are true, I believe the biggest reason I’m drawn to younger adults is that they give me glances of the future I’m going to be living in. Young people, in many and varied ways, offer society clues to where we are going. Church leaders would do well to pay attention to their clues, both about the world and about church.

People of the church, keep asking questions and wonder about how you/we might engage in ministry with and for younger adults. Do it diligently and imaginatively. It is important to connect younger adults to our communities of faith and to accompany them in their faith journeys. This is part of our call. But as you do, don’t miss the moment at hand and the bigger, more important reality. Younger adults are inviting the church to rethink its way of being with other Christians, with other faiths, and with the world. They are happy to have us join them, but they are serious about that exploration. We can join them or let them go. I, for one, want to join them. What about you? 

Terri EltonAuthor Bio:
Terri is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She's our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change. She also serves as Director of the Center for First Third Ministry and hopes to help ministry leaders create environments that cultivate a faith that matters. Growing up in southern California, Terri discovered her love for the city, cultural diversity and the beach. You can usually find Terri running or biking the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul, or wherever she happens to be. When not moving, she's watching a movie with her husband or traveling with her two young adult daughters.

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