I recently worked with a young person I selected to run a volunteer ministry team. After a conflict arose between him and a young woman, I learned more about his family background. His relationships with females had been limited to the domineering influence of his mother and grandmother, who used manipulation to control both this young man and his father. His coping strategy was to shut down and avoid both of them. As I learned more about his upbringing, I understood why he reacted with such force to the complaints of his teammate. Knowing his background both softened my heart to him and gave me valuable information on how to coach him through this conflict. I offered him some healthy ways to interact with this young woman, and we had a great discussion about personality type, healthy conflict, and growing into his leadership role. And all of that conversation was informed by gathering background information.
Essential #3: Culture Check
When I graduated from college in the mid-90s, the economy was booming. Jobs were as ubiquitous as grunge bands. Signing bonuses were standard, as were the benefits of a steady paycheck: living on one's own, buying appropriate business attire, and finding new ways to spend money. The environment that 20somethings enter post-college today is very different. Just between the years 2006–2010, the number of young people returning home from college to live with their parents increased by 10 percent, up to 52 percent. Chances are, the 20somethings in your congregation are living at home. In a poor economy, everything takes longer, from finding a full-time job to becoming independent to stepping into the next stage of life. Without an understanding of the culture that our young people are diving into, it can be easy to chalk up their homebound unemployment to indifference. But the church has the opportunity for a better way.
With fewer opportunities for job satisfaction, 20somethings seek purpose and fulfillment outside of their employment. The church is the perfect place for young people to use their education and skills in a meaningful way. I recently met Alex, a freelance graphic designer in his mid-twenties. After working in part-time ministry, he moved home to be closer to his family and was living with his sister. We spoke for a bit about what kind of work he was looking for. His face was downcast as he detailed the hours of time he'd spent building his resume and hoping for interviews. Over the next several weeks, I reached out to Alex, encouraging him in his job search, asking questions, and offering practical help, such as looking over his resume and putting him in touch with some influential people in our community.