Out of the womb…

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Out of the womb; part of the family

The family home can be a loving, caring, nurturing place (for some; sadly, it is incredibly damaging for others); however, staying within that womb of security for too long stunts the emotional growth of young adults.

Babies are only grown in the womb for nine months, then expelled to experience the real world. To continue to mature, the baby needs more space to grow than the mother’s nurturing womb can offer. Without a type of independence outside of the protected space, young adults will have a delayed emotional maturity.

In Renegotiating Faith: The Delay in Young Adult Identity Formation and What it Means for the Church in Canada, a 2018 report on a study by Rick Hiemstra, Lorianne Dueck, and Matthew Blackaby of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, there is significant information about exactly how young adults are forming their identity within Canadian culture.

The findings point toward the trend of a delay in young adults leaving their families of origin, and how that can negatively affect their identity formation.

In the opening summary, Hiemstra et al. point out that “[c]ontinuing parental dependence makes forming an identity apart from one’s family of origin (differentiation) more difficult.”

Troubling for churches is the news that “In some cases, young adults who do not have access to traditional differentiations of place, marriage, and profession are differentiating themselves from their parents by rejecting their parents’ faith.”

Spiritually fed teenagers become spiritually mature young adults, with significantly more chances of successfully carving out their own identity.

Without emerging in some way different from the life they have always known, young adults will struggle to forge their own identity.

As a youth and young adults pastor, I can unequivocally tell you that youth and young adults ministries are still necessary. There’s an uncanny number of teenagers who have no spiritual support at home as they face these challenges of differentiation.

However, within my own experience, I see a positive emphasis on allowing parents the space to be the spiritual leaders of their children.

This is what the church needs to be focusing on: parents showing their children the way of Jesus so young people have the roots to nourish their emergence into the sometimes cold, hard world.

What I’d love to see is the church offering support, teaching and equipping adults – parents, grandparents, mentors, surrogate siblings – to lead children and youth into spiritual maturity in the church family. This could be an organic absorption of youth who don’t have spiritual families.

Spiritually fed teenagers become spiritually mature young adults, with significantly more chances of successfully carving out their own identity.

Whether you emphasize the role of community or individuality as the best course for young adults to form their identities, please be praying for them as they do. I’d like to leave you with more words from Renegotiating Faith:

“When it comes time to develop a Christian identity apart from one’s parents, young adults need persisting communities of faithful adults, mentors, and friends in their lives. When young adults move, it is vital that families, churches, and ministries work to get them connected to new Christian communities in a timely manner.”

Spencer Meisner
is youth and young adults pastor at Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon.

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