There comes a time when young believers in the church, often in their mid to late 20's, feel that they have now outgrown the traditional Youth Fellowship environment. They become what we often term the 'young adults' of the congregation; a group which consists of a mixture of young married couples and unmarried persons aged approximately 20 to 40. Some churches will organise specific meetings and events for their young adults, effectively as a follow on from their Youth Fellowship days. This period in a believer's life is a pivotal one; they have come through the difficult and testing years of secondary school and university and are still part of the church, yet there seems to be the question of where they go from here. What should be the position of the young adult in the church?
1. The Dangers facing the Young Adult
Children's meetings, Sunday Schools and Youth Fellowships are organised with a specific age group in mind. The main reason for this is that children and young people need to be taught on a different level and in a different manner to adults. They face different challenges and need the message to be geared towards the particular temptations that they will face as they grow up. As they become more mature they are taught in greater depth, with the hope that they will become useful members of the congregation. The important questions is, when does this age specific ministry cease?
In a sense it is always necessary to minister to people differently according to their age and circumstances; the spiritual needs of a teenager at school are different from the needs of a young married couple, which are equally different from the needs of an elderly saint of God. Yet there can be a danger for young adults that a continual desire for church events specific to our own age group can result in us never reaching the point where we simply regard ourselves as part of the whole church. Having been accustomed to depending on the church to provide special meetings and events for us when were young, we might expect that to continue into our 20's, 30's and even 40's. 1st Corinthians 13:11 says 'When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things'. It is important that we reach the level of spiritual maturity where we no longer need such a level of special attention. Young adults meetings are not wrong, they can be very beneficial, and it is but natural that we would fellowship with those of a similar age, yet it is also important for Christian young adults to remember that they are not a church within the church, but are part of the whole church.
2. The Opportunities for the Young Adult
There is no greater time to serve the Lord than in our youth. Our zeal, enthusiasm and energy will never be more abundant than it is in our youth and this is the prime time for believers to work in the church. C.H. Spurgeon said 'The church needs young blood in its veins. Our strength for holding the faith may lie in experienced saints but our zeal for propagating it must be found in the young'. It is at this time in our life that we ought to find ourselves most active in the work of the church.
The often used statement that the young are the church of tomorrow is true, yet it is equally true that they are the church of today. If tomorrow's church leaders have never served in the church under the leaderships of others then they will make poor leaders themselves. The period of our 20's and 30's ought to be spent as much as possible in the service of the Lord, for as we grow older me may not have the time and energy which we have now. It is true that we can serve the Lord earlier in life and also later, yet it is surely this period where energy and zeal will be most effectively united with maturity. Wisdom will increase as we grow older, but our energy will soon diminish. To remember our creator in the days of our youth is not simply an exhortation to seek Christ as Saviour early in life, but also to serve him whilst we are still young. The evangelistic and practical work of the church cannot be left to the elderly members of the congregation. To carry out door to door evangelism, to conduct open airs, to bring children and young people in to meetings on buses and to do other practical things requires effort and energy; effort which is more abundant in those who are in their 20's and 30's than any other age group. This our great opportunity.
The question and dilemma for us is what sort of a young adult we will be in our congregation. Will we continue to look for the congregation to provide for us, or will we now seek to provide for the congregation?