Discipling Emerging Adults

​​​​​​​  Author: Matt Talladay

Leaving behind programs for deep, honest, vulnerable, messy, and rewarding relationships.

During my senior year of college I made an interesting decision to not go back to the home I knew upon the completion of my undergraduate degree. In my naïveté I believed that I was ready to be on my own, that I was “responsible.” I knew that I was entering graduate school the following year and just needed to make living arrangements. I already had a part-time job with great “full-time” benefits, and all was right in the world. Except, truthfully, I had no idea how to be an adult. I remember a phone conversation I had with my dad soon after I graduated in which he said, “You can’t just work part-time. You need to have another job; otherwise, you won’t be able to pay your bills, especially when school starts again.” And the light bulb (which should have been obvious to start with) went off; and so, I secured another job. It became evident to me over the next few years that as much as I believed I knew how to be a mature, well-adjusted adult who didn’t “need” to be parented any longer, that in fact I really did need help. I still needed to be shown how to live, how to manage finances, how to be invested in a community and church, how to work with diligence, and ultimately I needed to be shown how to follow Jesus when my parents weren’t looking over my shoulder. That is when real, intentional relationships with people who had traveled the road before me became the life-blood of growth.

They say that the period of life from age 18-30 is generally the one most fraught with instability. Emerging adulthood tends to be characterized by transitions in many areas such as living arrangements, relationship development, school or employment, and more. Oftentimes, the pace in which these changes occur is staggering. Looking back on my own past 11 years, I have lived in five different places and I’ve held seven different jobs, gotten married and had two children. Yet, in the midst of such change, I had several relationships which provided the opportunity to share my fears, my struggles, my hopes, and my dreams. Each of these relationships had the foundation of the fellowship of Christ. These men and women sought after Jesus and ultimately pointed me towards being more dependent on Him.

The crazy thing about these relationships is that they didn’t start or continue because of an official ministry of the church, or because I signed up for it, or because they were paid. They were people who saw an opportunity to use their own gifts and passions to minister and disciple a young man who needed help in the “here-and-now” world. And, in offering that help, they also took the opportunity to speak into my life about what following Jesus truly looks like. There was one man who through fixing my car (way too often) and playing ping-pong taught me the importance of giving up anger, of having a good laugh, and the priority of following Jesus. He did this by being intentional with sharing stories of his own struggles, failures, and redemption through Jesus while we were under that horrible 80’s Astro van, or the Geo Prism, or the Ford Tempo, or the… There was a woman who taught me the pursuit of excellence in work, and a father and grandfather who added to that pursuit of excellence the ultimate goal of glorifying God in work. There was the young man who pushed me to serve faithfully with a group of junior high boys. There was the man who asked the best questions to get me thinking about what it looks like to be a godly husband and godly father. Each of these relationships was fostered by people being intentional with their gifts and passions and by their honest engagement with what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

It is easy to get wrapped up in making discipleship something rigid and official to the detriment of having a real relationship that points a person to Jesus. I was recently talking with a few young adults from our church, who desperately desire to have people speaking into their lives. They, like many of us, are intimidated by the idea of “Discipleship”; but after discussing the nature of a Christ-centered intentional relationship that occurs over coffee, or while biking, or while under the hood of a car, it didn’t sound so scary. Going up to someone and inviting them to coffee and to talk about life following Jesus is a lot easier than going up to someone and asking them to “Disciple” you. But, it takes honesty, real honesty—the kind that is willing to be vulnerable and a little messy. It’s the kind that goes out on a limb to say the hard stuff or ask the hard questions. We have an opportunity at MABC with a lot of young adults to offer them the stability that only God can provide through a time full of transition. We have the opportunity to reach out and share in the honest struggles of life on earth while we wait in eager anticipation for Jesus to return. Think back to your own time of emerging adulthood and the challenges you were faced with, and chances are that you faced similar major life transitions that the young adults here are facing. Reach out to one of them by inviting them to an early morning breakfast, helping them fix their car, playing games with them, helping them move to a new apartment. Be willing to share stories, offer help, be vulnerable, ask questions, and you might learn something yourself as together you seek to pursue Jesus.