Emerging Adolescence and the Church

July 5, 2016
Darrell L. Bock, Mark Matlock, and Jay L. Sedwick

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Topic Time Codes

00:15
How adjustment from adolescent life to family life has shifted from the late teens to later in life
04:13
The difference between emerging adulthood and extended adolescence
07:07
How has the Church reacted to this phenomenon of shifted adolescence?
12:01
How Youth Specialties helps the Church minister to those in this stage of life.
14:25
The impact that this shift of adolescence plays in the way one teaches Christian education in the local church
20:20
The impact over-emphasizing families in the local church has had on those who do not come from the “ideal” family.
22:28
How does the local church balance the preferences of older and younger generations?
28:29
The challenges and advantages of the “fluidity” of individuals who float back and forth between congregations.
31:51
How does a local church avoid being viewed as just another institution of which one is a part?
34:54
Understanding the three phases of adolescence.

Transcript

Darrell Bock
All right, well, welcome to our final cultural engagement chapel of the semester. I always know I'm at a seminary when we pray not just for hope, but we pray for eschatological hope.
Darrell Bock
So, it's – you know, I'm still contemplating that. Anyway, our topic today – actually, we're gonna work to define it. We're gonna discuss a category of sociology that impacts the Church that we don't think about that much. How many of you know what adolescence is? Okay, all right. [Laughs] It's painful, I know. That's right.

So, how many of you know that that word actually is a fairly recent word in the vocabulary of the English language? Anyone know the date that it was spawned? Well, of course you know, okay. 1904. M-kay?
Mark Matlock
He said 1910. So, wrong a few years.
Darrell Bock
So, my guests today are Mark Matlock, who is with Youth Specialties, and, of course, you all know Jay Sedwick who dressed up for the occasion. I really appreciate that. And we're gonna discuss this category that isn't just adolescence, it's – and we're gonna actually talk about this difference, what's sometimes called extended adolescence, and sometimes called emerging adolescence.

And here's what's happened to the term; it's grown. If you think of adolescence, you normally think of the teenage years. My definition of a teenager, from a parental point of view is is that you know your kids hit the teenage years when you go from being the greatest person that's ever walked the Earth as a parent, to dropping completely off the ranking list, somewhere as the child enters a black hole.

And then, somewhere in the 20s, they emerge on the other end, and you regain some status, but you never quite get up to where you were. And when that happens, they start asking you questions again and asking you for advice. You should just be grateful and not ask how it happened; just be grateful to God that they've emerged from the black hole.

So, that's – we tend to think of adolescence as the teen years. But what's happened sociologically is that's all changed. So, Mark, why don't you explain to us what the change is and why we're talking about either emerging or extended adolescence?
Mark Matlock
Yeah. The founder of Youth Specialties is Wayne Rice – well, co-founder. He would always say that in the teen years, your children fire you as parents, and then they hire you back as consultants when they graduate from college.
Mark Matlock
And so, that's kind of a similar picture there. Well, what seems to be happening is that we know that, you know, from a – that we look at adolescence as biology, sociologically, and then developmentally. There's all these different things going on. And the biology of adolescence and puberty is actually going lower, where we're seeing teens going through puberty at 10 or 11.
Jay Sedwick
Did you catch his voice cracked when he said puberty?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I did.
Mark Matlock
I'm still hoping. Maybe this is the year. And the – but now what we're seeing is is that it used to be that somewhere around 16 to 18, we saw people coming out of that phase of life and going into maturity and becoming more like an adult. And this is why, when you watch old movies, sometimes you're shocked at, "They're teenagers? They're acting like adults." Well, because sociologically, they were coming into that at that time.

Now what we're seeing is that people are staying into adolescence or adolescent-like behavior into their 20s. Some sociologists even say early 30s. So, that's given rise to this thing as this extended adolescence or as emerging adulthood. And there's a lot of different viewpoints on that.
Darrell Bock
So, we're talking about the age group really between say 13-ish and really 34. And part of the – part of the – part – yeah, you see –
Mark Matlock
You can be a youth minister for life.
Darrell Bock
We're trying to keep you young. Okay? So – and really, part of it is is this – at what point does a person emerge from their education, establish themselves in a job, establish themselves as starting a family? And all that is getting stretched out. And that all has implications for the Church.

So, let's talk about the terminology first, and then we'll talk about the implications for the Church. Terminology. As you said, you talked about – we talked about emerging – what? – emerging adulthood, is that the phrase that you used? – versus extended adolescence.

So, let's talk about the difference between those two terms and what they communicate.
Mark Matlock
Yeah, so, when we're looking at that age range, when we look at the percentage of people who completed a major life transition by 30 – so, when we say that, we're talking about leaving home, finishing school/college, financially independent, getting married and having a child.

When we look at those life stages, in 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had achieved those life stages by the age of 30. Today we're looking at 46 percent of women and 31 percent of men. So, this is a phenomenon. This is not a small thing or an idea that somebody cooked up to sell articles or a book; this is a reality that we're facing.

And so, when we're looking at that emerging adulthood and the extended adolescence, the question is are we elongating the teen years, or are we putting something new, a new stage in between actually reaching those life stages of adulthood in the 30s? And there is debate out there. People that typically are baby boomers and older tend to look at it as extended adolescence, "Why can't these people just grow up?"
Darrell Bock
Yeah, we're paying for it.
Mark Matlock
Yeah, yeah. "I throw my kids out; they come back." The boomerang generation they're called. Right?
Darrell Bock
That's right.
Jay Sedwick
Yeah.
Mark Matlock
And then you've got another group of sociologists that are looking at this, going, "Wait a minute. Look at everything that's changing in the world." Nothing that used to stay conventional, that said conventional, stable life is valid anymore. The 30-year mortgage may be the kiss of death to this coming generation.

So, you know, signing onto a big corporation doesn't mean you're gonna retire in that corporation. So, there's nothing quite the same as it was several decades ago. And so, we have this group of people that are trying to figure out, "What does it mean to be stable?"

And so, there's a group of sociologists, led by a guy named Jeff Arnett, who basically coined the term emerging adulthood, and actually say, "This is a whole new category of development; it's not adolescence. So, it's not extending. But it's not adulthood either; it's something before that."
Darrell Bock
Well, okay. So, the Church deals with this. And here's my portrait of what happens in the Church world. We get the graduating senior from high school. We send them off to college. We say, "Sayonara, and hope you hook up somewhere down the road with another church."
Jay Sedwick
Careful with that term.
Darrell Bock
I know; I know; I know; I know.
Darrell Bock
"Hope you connect with another church down the road."
Jay Sedwick
That's better.
Mark Matlock
That's better.
Darrell Bock
"Okay? And in the midst of – in the midst of doing this, we wish you well." But what's happening when that happens?
Jay Sedwick
Well, a lot of the churches are not paying attention to this particular phenomenon. They, in many ways, have programmed and over programmed for their youth, for their teenagers up through their graduation from high school.

And for the most part, they don't have the money or aren't paying enough attention to the students as they graduate from high school and the transition that they go through when the finish high school and go off to college or go off to a college education or go off to a job kind of situation.

And they don't have the money to hire somebody to work with that age. And these teenagers who have been basically spoon fed an awful lot of activity and an awful lot of attention, all of a sudden the graduate, and we kinda kick 'em out the door and hope that they have a great life.
Darrell Bock
There's no activity, and there's no attention.
Jay Sedwick
Yeah. And, "Wait a minute, what happened? All this attention, all these things that were going on for me, and it was all about me in so many ways, and now I'm kind of left to figure it out on my own and try to navigate this new time of life."

The parents and the parental involvement and influence are oftentimes nowhere near as strong as they were, because many of these students will now leave if they go to college. And mom isn't telling them to get up in up in the morning, not helping them get dressed, if they're even still doing that. And they've got to make a lot of decisions on their own. They're all of a sudden responsible, or supposed to be responsible, for things not happening.

And our church is not really giving the kind of attention that I believe this particular age group needs. We spend a lot of time with the transition, are focusing on the transition from elementary school to the adolescent years or to youth ministry. And most churches will spend a lot of time programming that transition, making sure we capture these young preteens into some sort of a program ministry in the church.

But for whatever reason, there's been very little attention given to the transition from 12th grade, when they graduate from high school, and on into the great unknown. And again, back to the money thing, most churches, it's a luxury to have a college minister. It's a luxury to have a young adult minister. You have to be pretty large, in terms of the church itself, and you have to have a focused attention to this age group to even bother hiring somebody to do this.

And so, it's kind of left in a nebulous stage of not really paying attention to it.
Darrell Bock
And here's the impact, and I'll just describe this – and by the way, be prepared to ask questions, 'cause I'm gonna turn to questions here in a second. The impact of this, in contrast to what it used to be, is it used to graduate, go to college, get married fairly young, have a child at a fairly young age, and in that process, when the parents were thinking about, "How are we gonna raise our kids," that would sometimes pull them back into the church setting.

What's happening with the elongation is is that the adult habits are being established and have been so deeply established that by the time they get married and have the child, they're not asking the question of what I'm gonna do with my kid with quite the intensity that they used to, 'cause they've developed their adult lifestyle in the meantime, and they've determined, in an alternative way – and we're leaking a generation, if I can say it that way.
Mark Matlock
Well, it used to be that attending church was evidence of a conventional life. But now a conventional life is suicide. Right? There's – that's death to this generation. And if we believe that the Gospel attaches itself to the culture, transforms it from the inside out, a lot of our churches have become social expressions of what once worked. But we've gone through so much deep, structural change globally, within our own country, the Church has not kept pace with being responsive to it. Even the idea of just, "Well, we need to hire a college person," that's not right either. There's a whole new understanding of ecclesiology in the way that it plays itself out and how we support people as they're moving forward.

So, it's re-identifying what we are as a church community, a faith community, that I think is at risk, too. It's not just about hiring a position or coming up with a good program. Those have been some of the solves that people have tried to put out there, but that's like putting Band-Aids on a gunshot – you know, on a machine gun wound or even worse, an amputation. It's not going to work, because there's so much change that's happened on a deep level, the old methods for fixing them aren't going to work either.
Darrell Bock
So, what is Youth Specialties working on to try and help with this? I mean what are the ways that we can move towards dealing with what is really not just a structural problem, but a major sociological phase that the Church is almost – the way it's structured now is it doesn't seem to be connecting at all with what's going on.
Mark Matlock
I think one of the biggest things that we've been behind is publishing a series of books called Sticky Faith by Kara Powell out of Fuller Seminary. And what she's been doing is a lot of research on practice on how we become more intergenerational in the way that we're doing things. And I think that's a first step toward reimagining what church community is. But there's also a lot of things that need to be thought of in terms of vocation. A lot of us that are ministers that are ordained, we received a calling maybe in high school or college. We pursued an education around that. We went n vocationally to that.

We haven't had a lot of other work experience, vocational experience. As a result, our congregants don't often come to us asking for vocational advice. But I think that we do have to have a vocational imagination about how we're helping people think about their platforms. I mean we're not – if you've ever filled out something online, and it asks you, "What field are you in?" Right? There's no, "I'm a minister; I'm a pastor; I'm in the Church." Maybe nonprofit is like the best that we can get, or education.
Darrell Bock
Well, that's actually true. You know, it is a nonprofit occupation.
Mark Matlock
Yeah, but how general can you get? Right?
Darrell Bock
Right.
Mark Matlock
And when you go to the dropdown box, there's Mr.; there's Mrs.; there's Dr. There's never Rev. You know? And so, it's like we're not even being tracked by the world – right? – as being a significant market segment.

So, I'm sitting there going, "How are we leveraging people's vocations and helping them understand?" And we tell 'em, "Hey we want you to live 24/7 for God, 'cause we have a generation that wants to do that. We have a generation that's raising their hand, going, "Yes, but I don't think that that means showing up to church every time there's a program. Somehow I think that means being outside the walls of the church and making an engagement."

And so, we have to figure out how we create communities and youth ministries that are also helping our teenagers have an imagination for how God wants to be involved in the redemptive work of the Church through their vocational abilities as well.
Darrell Bock
So, Jay, how does this impact the way you think about teaching and Christian education, etcetera? What things are you all wrestling with as you try and prepare people for this shift that we are experiencing?

And do come forward, if you have questions. So, I'm gonna turn to questions pretty quickly. So, if you have a question, feel free to step to the mike.
Jay Sedwick
Well, just some basic things. We obviously are talking about, in my classes, about a disciple – more of a discipleship model of doing youth ministry rather than an entertainment or attractional model, helping our youth ministers that are going out of here think about the fact that, what Mark said, intergenerational connection is so important.

So many of our young people, their only real access to any kind of advice or help is the other stupid teenager that's sitting beside them. And that's a terrible place to go for an answer to a difficult life question.
Darrell Bock
I've never seen a blurb that said, "Other stupid teenager."
Jay Sedwick
Well, you want to – yeah.
Jay Sedwick
But it's the truth.
Darrell Bock
It's the truth, that's right.
Jay Sedwick
You know, it's like the greatest pooling of ignorance, the tenth-graders, all getting together. You know? And so, we've got to work on intergenerational connection. We've got to have a broad range of adult leaders and a broad range of people, within the Church, working together to have impact.

The best way to learn how to live your life – in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn how to live your life is t watch other believers who are further down the road than you are, and who have done good things, have made good decisions, who are healthy and adjusted. I want to see what they're doing. The model – it's a discipleship model; it's what we see in Scripture, I believe.

And so, trying to help the students understand that that's gotta be an integral part of what they do. They've got to think longer term. If a church does not have anything at all, not even thinking about this college age or this young adult, this emerging adult, whatever we want to call it, I encourage my youth ministry students to expand their understanding of what their job really is and to approach the church and say, "Hey, I want to pay attention to not just the kids when they get to 12th grade and are gone. How about letting me oversee this other this other section of the lifespan development that we're talking about so that there's a little bit more connection between when they graduate and when they go off into the great young adult unknown.
Darrell Bock
And the potential for this is huge, because with all the technology that we have, the ability to stay connected to someone, even though they may not be in geographic proximity, actually does exist. And so, there's no reason not to think about how to pursue that.
Jay Sedwick
Absolutely.
Mark Matlock
I would also add, and I think you would agree with me, Jay, that it's not just about the old people in the Church helping the young people out. We're in an era of reverse mentoring, where the older generations needs to also learn from the younger generation.
Jay Sedwick
Absolutely.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Mark Matlock
And when you – when we look at teenagers, in every aspect of society, they're not a child; they're not yet an adult. They're kind of "nons." And so, they create their own little world and tribe and infrastructure and ecology.

And as the Church, we have to think about how we view ourselves as a church. We look at these teenagers, and we put them off to the side. They're like a little church within a church. Are we inviting them into the imagination of what the body of Christ is? If we really believe that the body is distinctly made of individual parts, but the parts are absolutely interdependent on one another, we need to be asking these teenagers – not saying that the stupid other one – I know you don't really mean that –
Jay Sedwick
Right, right, no I don't.
Mark Matlock
But to go to them and say, "We need your questions. We need your imagination in how we are being the body of Christ in this world. You are experiencing this in a really different way. How do we as a church learn from you so that we don't become dogmatic, we don't become traditional?"

And we always use teenagers to be slave labor, to pull weeds, to paint things in the church, to serve the old people at a banquet. You know? And hey, we're all part of the body of Christ, and we're engaging together, but are we inviting them to be co-conspirators in this Gospel work as the Church? Because we have teenagers that want that. And we're finding that teenagers that are invited into that kind of an imagination. They stay with the Church, and they're going to do incredible things.

And so, we have to elevate. The Church is the only institution I know of that says, "You, as a member of the body of Christ, have equal importance to its function, just because you're here and the Holy Spirit resides inside of you." No other institution looks at teenagers that way. As a Church – and we don't, functionally, but we should theologically realize, "Hey, these – they're equal parts of the Church. How are they vital to our existence?" If we don't think they're vital to it, we need to think our ecclesiology over again.
Jay Sedwick
The issue of value is what he's talking about in many ways. Adolescence has, unfortunately, devalued teenagers for such a long time. We haven't. In fact, one of the things I talk to my classes is the fact that these young people have so much potential, and they have so much ability, that for a large part of our population, our segment of our population, say, "No, they're – they kinda need to sit on the sidelines until they grow up, until they figure these things out."

There's a book by Alvin Reid, Raising the Bar. It's an interesting book that he wrote, basically saying, "You know, teenagers are gonna rise to the bar that you set. And if you think that they're a bunch of stupid tenth-graders, they're gonna act like stupid tenth-graders. But if you raise the bar and challenge them to step up, they're capable of so much more in terms of even their own maturity, their own understanding.

And so, I do absolutely agree with Mark that the more we open the doors and invite them to be a part of what we're doing, the more stick – that's Sticky Faith – the more stick they'll have in staying with the Church.
Darrell Bock
Okay, I have someone who's ready to ask a question. Go for it.
Male
How do you test? Test, one, two, one, two. There we go. I just had a question – actually two questions about just maturity as an evangelical culture. Do we – I mean it seems like we're valuing a younger culture over an older culture. And is that contributing to this whole issue of saying, "Well, you don't have to be old yet. You can still hang onto this younger, more attractive life, 'cause that's better."

And then my other question is, with this hammering, basically, generation, and with divorce rates what they are, is the solution a program rather than family training to help foster maturity in this generation? Thank you.
Darrell Bock
Two questions. Let's deal with the family one first, because I think that that's an interesting question; it's actually something that we did talk about when we did the podcast, which is that most church structures assume a family structure. And that actually cuts out a significant portion of people that are functioning in our society, 'cause they don't come from whole family structures.

So, let's talk about that one a little bit, the impact of the way in which the breakup of the family impacts the Church and how the Church deals with it.
Mark Matlock
Well, I know, for myself, I get very concerned right now, seeing a lot of churches moving toward these family-oriented ministry models. And it sounds – you know, "What? How could you be against that?" But I think that the Church is actually losing its identity as the body of Christ by putting so much emphasis on moms and dads. To me, the Church, the body of Christ, is called to make disciples in the world, and parents that are a part of the Church have special responsibilities as far as that's concern.

But we have so many teenagers in our world who do not have parents that are participating in the Church, that are not engaged in church. If everything's focusing on the family in the Church, then how in the world does a student who comes from a blended family or family that isn't operating in that kind of a dynamic, how are they getting what they need spiritually, and how can they even come into contact with a church that's in that situation?

So, I think there's some things where our consumeristic models of the Church are like, "Hey, serving families, good thing when, but is it really moving and advancing the Great Commission and making disciples and reaching teenagers?"
Darrell Bock
Okay, now, the second question's an interesting one, too, and that is, "So, how do we balance this older generation/younger generation problem, particularly given the fact that what sociology is also telling us is the attitudes of the two groups and the preferences of the two groups are so different. So, the way you see it oftentimes in the Church is even in the selection of music in a worship service in terms of how you communicate that you're inclusive, if you want to use that word, by even the music that you choose to worship by. How do you deal with that and negotiate with that issue?
Jay Sedwick
I think it's all about money. And it's an interesting or simple answer. But there's so much money being spent; it's kind of a reflection of our culture. So much money being spent on the youngest and younger generation. So much of our economy, especially in the entertainment world, is centered around trying to get the dollar out of the pocket of the young person. They are a lot easier to get the money from.

And so much of our marketing and the TV programs and the music and the movies and everything that – you know, when you hear about the ratings – the key ratings on television, it's that coveted market of 18 to 35 or whatever. That's what they're really looking for.

So, there's – I think it's somewhat of a snowball situation, where there's so much emphasis placed on that. And I think the older generation kinda gets lost in that situation. They don't feel like the culture is trying to meet their needs and trying to bring things to them. So, there is a huge – I think a huge disconnect and a controversy between the two.

Bringing them together –
Mark Matlock
The older generations give money.
Jay Sedwick
Exactly.
Mark Matlock
The younger generations will show up because it appeals to them, but they don't necessarily give.
Jay Sedwick
Right, right. And a little sidelight on it is the whole concept of stewardship. Churches are facing real problems right now with financially being viable because the younger generation, even if they'd been taught some stewardship concepts, they're holding onto their money for their own benefit. They're not in a situation where they want to feel like or think like they should be giving to the Church and supporting the Church.

So, we've got the older generation really with most of the wealth that they've maintained that they've handled well and that they've saved for. They're the ones that are supporting most of the programming, and yet the young people aren't stepping up to do that. It's gonna be n interesting thing to see how that demographic alters the way the Church operates.
Darrell Bock
Let me flip the question, 'cause I'm involved with the church that I've actually – the church that I've been involved with here in Dallas, I've been involved with since I was a student at seminary. And I've watched that congregation grow older. So much so that the conversation that we've had in our own elder board has been – we're a very popular church for the over-50s, but what does that mean for us in 20 years?

And so, when you think through that problem, if an older generation hangs onto churches they like and are used to it, the risk is, on the backend, that they don't connect with their kids that are coming through, etcetera, and they go elsewhere. And they don't end up functioning.

So, how do you – how do you work to create a balance between what the older generation – and after all, the older generation is the one that's contributing; they're responsible for the budget of the church, etcetera; their preferences speak with their dollars in some ways – how do you reverse that trend? How do you create a leadership that is sensitive to that transition?
Mark Matlock
You write a book about it and make a lot of money.
Mark Matlock
I think one of the challenges is the church building. They take a lot of money. And you have a generation who's thinking a lot differently about money and brick and mortar and funding, of crowd sourcing and things like that.

So, it will be interesting to see what generation steps up to say, "Hey, I want to pay for the cracks in the parking lot," because there's – I don't think that's an exciting thing to give money to, when I can go and participate in these other things that feel like they're meeting more direct needs.

So, I think there are gonna be some real interesting questions to come up around what the real costs of running a church are related to what people are willing to contribute to –
Darrell Bock
And what the values are that are reflected in those choices.
Mark Matlock
And what the values are, yeah. And that's one of those deep structure shifts that's going to – that's going to happen as this generation continues to emerge and takes on those roles.
Jay Sedwick
That's a great characteristic of the millennial generation, just throwing that term out for the first time, but is that they are altruistic. They want to get involved in something that really makes a difference. They want to do something where they can see benefit; they can see results; makes a change in a person's life. And repainting the sanctuary or paving the parking lot doesn't carry the kind of weight that the young people today are really looking for.

So, I agree that what Mark said is an important thing. Having the kinds of things in your church that really inspire these young people to get involved personally is really gonna make a difference.
Mark Matlock
We're all willing to pay for infrastructure and capacity building when the payoff of impact is on the front end. It's just that now it seems like so much of the focus is on, "We need a new HVAC unit. We need –" You know?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, right.
Mark Matlock
And you're sitting there going, "Wait a minute. What's the bigger thing that we're a part of that that HVAC unit helps accomplish?"
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Mark Matlock
So, there's a – it's a big story telling.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I think this is a difficult problem, and it's a difficult problem to negotiate and to negotiate well. And if you don't have a good conversation happening within your community, across the generations, you're not gonna negotiate it. I mean there's just no way.

Over here a question.
Male
Yeah, I'm actually a college pastor in North Plano, and so, I'm in this every day. But one of the things that I've noticed in this generation as well is that – it's maybe a good thing and a bad thing, but they – the college students that I minister with, they have a much bigger picture of the Church. So, it's hard for them to just view Chase Oaks Church, where I am – like they don't see themselves as an institutional member of that church. And it's a very much more of a fluid kind of approach to church.

And so, my question is how much do you think – you know, is that maybe a positive thing and maybe starting a trend of just – of churches in general being more open to working together in this bigger image that we – it's not just my church and what I've – my agenda, my programs, or do you see that as maybe a negative trend and like really not having that commitment and that accountability to that local body of believer? Does that make sense?
Jay Sedwick
Yeah, yeah. Real quick, it depends on who you ask. If you ask the senior pastor of a particular church, he's probably gonna be upset that that young person would be thinking about going to a conference with a different church or supporting some other things.

I like to call this the difference between a kingdom mentality and a fiefdom mentality. If you have a kingdom mentality, you're more Church universal. You're thinking about the body of Christ, as we've talked about, and the work of evangelism and discipleship and all of us being in this together, regardless of the name of the church that you go to or the location, versus a fiefdom mentality, which is our little enclave of people, and we've got it all right, and we've got it figured out. And if you go to another church, you've betrayed someone or something.

So, in that regard, I think it's positive that the young people are willing to see beyond a particular church building or church congregation and understand that we have brothers and sisters in Christ in so many different places and in different traditions, in many ways, and that we have to work together if we're gonna get the job of evangelism and discipleship done.
Mark Matlock
And at the same time, you have more of a desire for real community and connection and deeper relationships with people. The problem is is that we're still doing some programmatic type of things for this thing. So, it's literally like buying a ticket to something or saying, "This is just part of my identity and who I am. I go to this church on this Wednesday, and this da-da-da." But where do you find real community, and where are we holding people accountable to being in a real community?

And I think when you saw a lot of churches kind of do away with things like church discipline and things like that, you saw a community start to deteriorate. And it's happened in just about every aspect of our society; it's happened in the Church as well. People like bigger churches because, "I'm more anonymous. So, if I'm more anonymous, I'm less accountable; I'm not part of that community." Yet there is this huge longing by this generation for real community.

So, there's an opportunity for the Church to kind of do a course correct and figure out, "What does real community look like? And what does it –" you know, membership has its privileges, so to speak, but not in that kind of a concept but, "– what does it really mean to be a part of this?"
Darrell Bock
Okay, next question.
Male
Yeah, my question, at the risk of – hopefully I don't sound to critical in this, but do you think part of the problem is for the evangelical church that it's sort of lost some of its distinctiveness in what it means to practice church here in the world.

So, what, essentially, it seems like we're beginning to see is more of like a Christianized school model to church, to where you show up to church in a sense that it's almost – you know, you're there to learn, and you're there to be with people, and you're there to grow.

And so, for the younger generation, when they graduate high school, it's almost this feeling of they graduate church. There's nothing – there's nothing distinctive about going to church on a Sunday morning that sets you apart from other institutions. That is, you're there to worship the Lord, and you're there to enter into His presence. Yeah, I don't know; that's a thought that's been running through my mind.
Mark Matlock
No, I think that's a great observation, and I think you're right. Being a part of a church is marginally better than giving to Starbucks and what they're doing. You know what I mean?
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Mark Matlock
Where is the difference that Jesus really makes? Right? Where is the power difference? I think this generation is asking – "On whose authority," is the one question they're asking. And then the second question is, "Where is the power?" I think those are the two invisible questions that they're looking at everything from is, "If this church really is who they say they are, where is this distinctive that being a part of Jesus makes such a big difference?"

And I think the crisis of Evangelicalism today is that there's an emphasis on being right more than – I mean – yeah, being right rather than doing what is right. And there's so much emphasis on belief and right thinking, but they're going, "Where is the effect? Where is that hands and feet that make the difference in life?"

And I think that's one of the greatest crisis in Evangelicalism right now, among a bunch of other things, including political affiliations.
Darrell Bock
And that – and that – and the thing that we were talking about earlier, were they – you have these teenagers who are getting all this attention when they're in high school, and then their graduation day comes, and then all of a sudden, the church opts out of their life, if I can say it that way, because they're no longer in the 12th-grade program, is actually a manifestation, institutionally, what he just described, which is you treat the students going through as if they're – I'm gonna say it vividly – as if they're a commodity, and once the commodity hits the finish line, I release them.

And a person who's in the midst of that says, "Where the relationship that's supposed to be so central to what's going – it shouldn't make any difference that I'm graduating. In fact, the fact that I'm graduating should be an enhancement for what's taking place as opposed to a finish line where they release me and they're done with me now." All that, I think, is important.

We've got time for one more question right here.
Male
Several times you've mentioned "a generation." But the 18-34 now is both millennials and the end of Gen-X. And if we really want to open it up, this really 20 to 34 is having children which are having the exact same thing going on. I've got several of my classmates that I graduated with back in the late '90s that have kids that are getting ready to go to college, and they're in the same spot now. How do we approach this three generations of adolescence?
Mark Matlock
Jeff Arnett, he kind of studied this phase. And what he basically came up with, there's kind of three different movements that are happening now, and it's from 18 to 22 there's the launching phase of, "I'm kind of going out to find my way." It's not finding the way that typically would happen through the college experience. S, 18 to 22 is launching.

Twenty-two to 26 is the exploring phase, trying to figure out who I am, what works, what's the right fit for me. And then the 26 to 29 phase is a landing phase. And he's done enough research to identify these really distinct movements that people go through.

And unlike an adolescent in the teen years that kind of rejects mom and dad, it's interesting to watch these young adults in this emerging adolescent thing – emerging adulthood phase, because they're looking at mom and dad as collaborators now and as resources to help them. You see a lot of parents investing in their children's business plan or idea and things like that. And so, they're using their parents' networks to help launch what they're doing.

So, there is some distinction that's happening in those different groups; it's not just a thing of there's a failure to launch; it's that, well, launching, exploring, landing looks really different than it did a long time ago. And a lot of it is because everything about the economy has changed.

These people aren't just competing against people in their neighborhood for jobs; they're competing against people in India and China and all over the world, in the U.S. at least. And in those countries, they're experiencing a growth in that area, too. I mean I was just in India, and to see, over a course of 20 years of traveling there, just the growth of the middle class has been phenomenal.

So, it's not just something happening in the U.S., it's happening in other countries as well, that they're dealing with these changes.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, and it's an interesting phenomena. And there are things happening that are really, really unusual. I was at a lunch the beginning of the week with someone who works in Hollywood, who does a lot of internships. And he says that he's experiencing, with corporations, the situation where young adults, 20-year-olds, are getting in their first job, and you know who's negotiating their contracts with the businesses? Their parents.
Mark Matlock
Their parents.
Darrell Bock
And he said corporations are having to restructure the way they think about doing this contract work because there's a phenomena taking place that they hadn't been dealing with before.

So, these changes are profound, and that's why we've highlighted this topic today, is because I think we have thought about – we tend to think about it like you're moving through a school and you're just graduating from grade to grade to grade to grade.

And it's actually much more complicated than that, and it's gonna take a lot more thought in thinking through how to minister to this group and to communicate community to them effectively. And if you over program that, if it has an over program feel and an over commodity feel to it, there's not gonna be a connection.

Well, our time is up. Let me pray for us and thank you, Jay and Mark, for being with us.

Father, we do thank You for this time to reflect on really what is the coming generation. And we pray that as we do that, and as we think about what we contribute as men and women who've been called to church work, that You would help us to be sensitive to the way our society is functioning around us and the way to minister effectively at a personal level and at a community level and not just at a program level for those to whom we reach out.

There are so many things we didn't even touch on, and that is how do you prepare those who are in our classes for the intellectual and social challenges that they'll face? We're just talking about the church dimensions of what's being talked about, and there are other layers to it.

We need Your wisdom and Your goodness and Your grace and Your guidance to do this well, and that's what we ask for. We ask it in Jesus' name, amen.

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