Monday, November 16, 2015

Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood

Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood, David P. Setran & Chris A. Keisling                      


Husband put this one in my hands, and as it is very relevant to his work, I was keen to read it.  Subtitled A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult Ministry, you can also see why he recommended it to his whole organisation, those who work with university students.  

It is a detailed analysis of Emerging Adults - a term which has been developed to describe young adults in their 20s when they are finding their way, in study, jobs, life partners, and faith decisions.  It has become almost a full decade of ‘me’ time, characterised strongly by self absorption and self fulfilment.

The authors look at faith, spiritual formation, identity, church, vocation, morality, sexuality, relationships and mentoring.   In each area they review current trends in emerging adults, the risks and opportunities, and the ways those working with them can encourage these young adults to love Jesus, live the gospel and make life choices that will grow them in the faith and grow the kingdom of God.

It was a fascinating read, both the analysis and the proposed ways forward.  Some points that resonated with me:
  • The challenge to address society’s “moralistic therapeutic deism”.  That is, we don’t just follow a God because he gives us a way to live and makes us feel good about it.  Rather we want hearts to be shaped and lives to be formed for the glory of God and to really know God, who he is and what he has done.
  • There were very helpful suggestions for churches to think about how to engage with this age group – though strong teaching, intergenerational fellowship, worship and outreach.
  • Thinking about vocation not through the lens of “Who am I?” but “Whose am I?” and in so doing considering gifts, passions, opportunities and community. 
  • Helpful comments in the relationship section about living through this age as a single and how relationships can develop wisely and well.
  • A strong call to mentor this age group – both those who are parents of them, those who work with them and those who have the opportunity; “Without question, the “mentoring gap” in emerging adulthood is one of the most significant factors blunting spiritual formation in these years” (p212).  This age group need “mentors who guarantee the possibility of a kingdom focussed adult life” (p228)

For those who work with this age group, I suggest this is essential reading.   For those who are parenting or about to parent this age group, I would also recommend it, to help think again about how our role as parents, even when they are young adults, is never finished.

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