Part of what makes the church so glorious is the fact that, at her best, she brings people together. Rich and poor. Haves and have-nots. Men and women. Black and white. And, young and old. The church suffers when it is homogeneous. It flourishes when it is diverse.
Each of the generations needs the other generations. And each generation has a vital role to play.
Today, we’ll talk about young adults, men and women roughly between the ages of 18 and 30.
I’m a young adult. What’s my role?
Life changes happen in rapid-fire succession when you’re in the 18-30 age range. It can be an exhilarating—if not dizzying—season of life.
And, in the midst of all that change, young adults who want to play a role in the church may have difficulty figuring out exactly what they have to offer and what they can contribute.
Here’s what I’d say to my young adult friends who are searching for their place in the church.
Grow in faith and character
There are ample opportunities to form solid faith and to deepen your character during the transitional years of young adulthood. Paul’s advice to Timothy seems appropriate here: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity,” ([biblegateway passage=”1 Timothy 4:12″]).
The steps you take to grow, the latitude you give the Spirit to work, and the habits that you instill during this period of life will lead to a harvest of righteousness down the road. And, in your pursuit of Christ’s heart, you’ll set an example for all of the believers around you, no matter what generation they belong to.
Discover and refine your gifts and skills
God gives all of his followers great gifts, talents, skills, and abilities that can be used to benefit the church.
Determine, throughout your 20s, to be a collector of experiences. If there’s an opportunity to do something new, go for it! Participate in a mission trip. Lead a small group. Serve as a youth sponsor. Start a Bible study at your office. Volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project. Collect as many experiences as you can. And, take great notes. Think about what you truly enjoy and figure out why. Find common themes. Look for fruit. And, keep careful track of what God is saying to you during each experience.
As you get a clear picture of your gifts, pick a couple and begin refining them. Study. Talk to other believers. And, put your gifts into practice. As you do, you’ll find out how God will likely use you in the decades to come.
Find a mentor
Most of the older people who have much to give aren’t necessarily looking for someone with whom to share their accumulated wisdom. It may be because they’re humble. Maybe they’ve never mentored anyone before. Maybe they just need to be asked.
Find an older man or woman with the qualities that you’d like to emulate and ask if they’d be willing to meet with you a couple of times to let you ask questions. It might be awkward at first. But, if you establish trust, demonstrate your openness and sincerity, and be persistent, you’re likely to find a treasure trove of wisdom. And, don’t limit your mentoring relationship to just one person. Find a married couple with a strong bond. Find a person in your profession. Sit and talk to an elderly saint after church.
You might be surprised what you learn and you’ll benefit from each encounter.
You want to charge the gates of hell with a squirt bottle. You have ambitions for the church. You see opportunities for the gospel. And you wonder why it takes so long to get anything done and why everyone doesn’t see what you see.
This is difficult to realize when you’re in your 20s and you are chomping at the bit to make a real and lasting impression in your local congregation: you’re just getting started. If you’re willing to patiently prepare for the long term while you’re in your 20s, young adulthood can be a fantastic launchpad for the rest of your life.
You won’t have the amount of influence at 25 that you will when you’re 50, even 35. Be willing to accept less significant opportunities to serve and do them well. Demonstrate your willingness to contribute and your eagerness to learn. And, learn to steward small responsibilities with great diligence and care, knowing that those who can be entrusted with little will be given more. Your time for bigger things will come.
Avoid common pitfalls
Finally, don’t allow yourself to fall into some of the most common pitfalls for young adults.
Cynicism is such an unattractive and counterproductive trait. It does no good for anyone. And, if it’s cultivated for long enough, it can affect your character throughout your life.
Don’t be prideful. Nobody has all the answers. No matter how bright or sincere you are, no matter how much you’ve read or studied, you simply haven’t circled the sun enough times to know it all. Remain teachable, open, humble, and honest.
Whatever you do, don’t give into the lie that you have to be older to make a difference. If you’ll invest in your character, discover how God has gifted you, learn from wise men and women, and be patient, you will make a difference. You’ll impact the church both now, in your twenties, as well as through the remainder of your life.