A few days ago I was talking with a friend, who is also a pastor, and we got on the topic of marijuana legalization here in Colorado, and the issue of Christians and recreational weed.
This pastor friend of mine said something to the effect of: our twenty-somethings are already so apathetic, the last thing they need is to get stoned all the time.
While I agree that getting stoned and checking out on life is dissipation, I told this friend of mine that I strongly disagree with his generalization about young people being apathetic.
The words I would use to describe those coming out of high school and college would be much different. I would say rather than “apathetic”, they are heroic. They are idealistic. They are people of action.
It is a highly discussed phenomenon, that young people, especially in the age range of 18-30 tend to disappear from church, only to reappear in their 30’s. A plethora of conferences, books and blog articles try to solve the problem of how to get these people to stay in church. Many theories as the to reason for this have been postulated, such as that young people need to come to faith on their own, or that they go off to “enjoy their twenties” by sinning a bunch, and then return to the church once they are married and have kids and realize how much they need the Lord!
Here’s what I think: one of the reasons why the church has trouble retaining twenty-somethings, is not because they are apathetic, it’s because we struggle to give them sufficient outlets for their heroic aspirations to change the world and make a difference.
I believe that young people are chomping at the bit to do something significant and change the world. I was that way when I was fresh out of high school – I didn’t want to spend 4 years at college; I felt that time was of the essence, and I wanted to get out there and change the world NOW. I realize now that in order to make significant change and contribution, some investment is necessary, e.g. doctors go to school for a long time, and as a result they are able to save lives. But as a young man, I wasn’t apathetic at all, and I don’t believe young people today are apathetic in the least. I believe they are heroic.
But if young people are as heroic as I claim they are, why do so many of them waste their 20’s smoking weed and going nowhere?
I believe it’s because they don’t have sufficient vision and they don’t have sufficient outlets for their heroic longings. They haven’t been given something worth living for, something worth dying for – something worth fighting for. And so, as a result, they direct their enthusiasm towards useless things.
For many young people, the only vision the church gives them is to go to groups and sit around talking. That is less than compelling for many of them. They desire community, but they want dynamic community – and they want an outlet through which they can be used by God to change the world. I don’t think that’s wrong – in fact, I think it is very much in line with the Gospel.
Another thing about young people today, is that they don’t just want to be given a task, they want to understand the vision for WHY that task is important, necessary, crucial to a greater mission – and what the end goal of that greater mission is.
I believe the challenge for the Church today is to give direction and vision to these heroic young people for how they can be used by God to bring His love to others and instigate redemption and transformation in the world, so that their heroism doesn’t get crushed by the weight of life and turn into apathy.
I have heard it said by leaders before: “I would rather have to reign in a racehorse, than kick a mule to get it moving.”
I think that’s where we need to be with young people: giving them outlets for their heroic longings, while yet being present to teach, guide and direct, so that their enthusiasm isn’t wasted by being spread out in so many different directions.