20-Somethings and Emerging Adulthood

This week the most popular article on The New York Times website is a long piece written about the changing lifestyle for 20-somethings in our culture.

I’m sure to some, the changes that have taken place in the recent past are a shock, but to me it was just a piece on the reality of life I see so many of my friends sifting through.

It is a long article. It took me about 25 minutes to read, but it is well worth it if you have any desire to understand people who are in their 20s.

The article does get into why 20-somethings are taking longer to get careers, jobs, spouses…essentially answer the question of why they are taking so long to grow up. In my experience people my age are “growing up” differently or later because of several reasons:

  • A college education barely gets you interview, much less a solid career type job. Just about everyone gets a bachelors degree now. Almost all of my friends from college and high school are doing nothing related to their field of study in college.
  • People aren’t going to college to get married, so they marry much, much later than 22. Obviously I’m not a great example of that. However, of all my close friends in high school and college, only 1 is married. Marriage forces you to grow up or get divorced.
  • Because of articles like this, it is now socially acceptable to be have nothing going at the age of 25 or even later. Lack of expectations and accountability to strive for something more, something deeper, plays a big part in this.

Here’s 2 quotes from 2 separate people in their mid-20s from the article:

“It’s somewhat terrifying,” writes a 25-year-old named Jennifer, “to  think about all the things I’m supposed to be doing in order to ‘get  somewhere’ successful: ‘Follow your passions, live your dreams, take  risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially  responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in  love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition.’  When is there time to just be and enjoy?”

Adds a 24-year-old from  Virginia: “There is pressure to make decisions that will form the  foundation for the rest of your life in your 20s. It’s almost as if  having a range of limited options would be easier.”

People debate whether this funk 20-somethings in today’s culture find themselves in is really a new life stage that has developed or whether they just need to have some more motivation for life. But the reality is that this is where people like me and my friends find ourselves: searching for the marrow of life.

The implications for the church are many, but the biggest is that the traditional church approach to have a college ministry that leads into a marriage ministry no longer applies. In fact, I don’t think we have fully realized how to effectively minister to people in their 20s who find themselves going through this struggle.

I can tell you this, it takes more than a one hour service on a Sunday morning.