IVP - Behind the Books - God Bless the Adult Child

November 2, 2007

God Bless the Adult Child

From Christian Smith’s “Getting a Life: The Challenge of Emerging Adulthood,” Books & Culture, November/December 2007.

We have long known that, for a variety of reasons, religious participation for many young people declines significantly when they leave home. Going away to college seems especially likely to kill regular church attendance for most. Historically, marriage and parenthood have then marked the return for many to church and more active faith. Regardless of what one thinks of these facts per se, the following general observation holds. When the space between high school graduation and full adulthood was fairly short . . . the length of time spent out of church tended to be rather short. But with the rise of emerging adulthood in recent decades, churches are now looking at 15-year or even 20-year absences by youth from churches— . . . if indeed they ever return. And these are crucial years in the formation of personal identity, behavioral patterns, and social relationships. Returning to church as full-fledged young adults with children in tow—yet having spent a decade or two forming their assumptions, priorities, and perspectives largely outside of church—they may very well bring to the churches of their choice motives, beliefs, and orientations difficult to make work from the perspective of faithful, orthodox Christianity.

It's difficult for me to read the phrase "15-year or even 20-year absences" and the word youth in the same sentence. It is, however, a particularly nagging problem for those who minister through churches--and those, quite frankly, who publish books for people in churches. Take heart, however, dear pastors and publishers: Smith does a nice job of setting a content agenda for us all. Sexuality and marriage, parenting adult children, stewardship, modesty and humility, education, civics and even ecclesiology are concepts worth exploring or revisiting, because they are all concepts that, in our current context, demand a kind of agile wisdom to successfully navigate.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at November 2, 2007 12:34 PM Bookmark and Share

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