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The Care and Keeping of 20somethings

We may need to work with them before we can expect them to step up to leadership.

I once sat with a young person at my breakfast bar. Over coffee, she confessed to me how utterly unprepared she felt for life. From figuring out how to have good friends to managing a budget, this young person felt inadequate at just "being" an adult. I reminded her gently that she wasn't just an adult. She was a baby adult. I told her that there are developmental stages in adulthood, not just in childhood.

As a "baby adult," her job throughout her 20s was to grow in these things. To grow into a woman who can pick friends and make dinner and plan for retirement. A woman who can buy her own couch and go on a blind date and decide what time she likes to wake up on Saturday. A woman who has to decide for herself if she's going to devote her life to God, if she'll follow through on her commitments, if she'll clean her room. Most 20somethings I know need permission to not have life figured out. They need to know that you, at 30 or 40 or 50, are not the same "you" you were at 20something. Although they will not want you to dictate their lives for them, with enough grace, coffee, and time at the breakfast bar, they will show you their true selves, thirsty for direction at how to be a grown-up.

Essential #2: Background Check

Beginning a relationship with someone in their 20s can be like adopting a two-year old dog rescued from a shelter. In your new pet's first days in the home, you quickly learn about their past by their current behaviors. You might interpret the way they cringe at your raised hand as a sign of abuse. Attention-seeking behaviors might clue you in to the dog's former neglect. And you would adapt your home environment, at least for a time, to make the transition easier for everyone.

It is easy to expect 20somethings to immediately "adopt" your culture and processes in ministry. Instead of thinking of ourselves as learning from them, we often expect conformity with the way we are already doing it. But young people bring a whole host of "learned behaviors" into the ministry setting. It is our responsibility to help these new adults in the transition time: to understand how their own upbringing, educational background, and experiences in faith affect and shape the way they approach the future. This can be as easy as asking new people in your work environment or ministry team about their families, their experiences in college, their church background. This information provides excellent context for understanding how you can best "adopt" young people into your team.

October23, 2012 at 10:40 AM

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