First Third Conversations

Discovering More About Young Adults - Resources Installment #2

faithA blog post by Terri Elton

As we begin to imagine accompanying younger adults in their journey, what are some things to keep in mind?

1. Younger adults are tinkerers. According to Robert Withnow:

“The single work that best describes young adults’ approach to religion and spiritual life -- indeed life -- is tinkering. A tinkerer puts together a like from whatever skills, ideas, and resources that are readily at hand. In a culture like ours, where higher education and professional training are valued, tinkering may have negative connotations. But it should not. Tinkerers are the most resourceful people in any era.” Wuthnow, After the Baby Boomers, 13

What would it mean to tinker with them? Many of us are not good at tinkering. But believe it or not, there’s a thing called Tinkering School. Watch this TedTalk and learn more about tinkering and wonder how tinkering might be ministry practice for ministry with younger adults:

2. Younger adults feel in-between, are exploring their identity, and experience instability. According to Jeffery Arnett:

“In emerging adulthood the anxieties of adolescence diminish, but instability replaces them as a new source of disruption.” (Arnett, Emerging Adulthood, 11)

When he asked young adults if they feel they have reached adulthood, here is what they said:

yes no 

What would it mean to name these realities? How might we, the people who care about them, enter into this state of ambiguity? Sara Groves’ song, Painting Picture of Egypt, is a song about living in this “in-between.” Check it out at:

Another song, Some Nights, by Fun is another example from pop culture. Check out the lyrics at:

For more understanding of younger adults seethis New York Times article that offers some interesting insights to younger adulthood:

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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