One man said, “Any leader with a desire to create a college-age ministry needs to have a clear understanding of two issues: how this ministry fits into the church as a whole and what kind of discipleship college-age people need.”
College-age people are immersed in transition. Relationally, educationally, vocationally, geographically—almost every area of their life is in a period of rapid, dynamic change. During this journey to adulthood, understanding what cultural shifts are shaping college-age people is vital for us to effectively reach and minister to them.
We’re seeing a continuing trend of delayed adulthood. TIME magazine, in an article entitled “Meet the Twixters,” describes a new period in the journey to adulthood:
Social scientists are starting to realize that a permanent shift has taken place in the way we live our lives. In the past, people moved from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood, but today there is a new, intermediate phase along the way. The years from 18 until 25 and even beyond have become a distinct and separate life stage, a strange, transitional never-never land between adolescence and adulthood in which people stall for a few extra years, putting off the iron cage of adult responsibility that constantly threatens to crash down on them. They’re betwixt and between. You could call them twixters.
This new phase has several contributing factors that we need to understand in our efforts to minister to college-age people.
1. Higher Education
It used to be that high school graduation was the first step into adulthood. Now, with the increased emphasis on attaining a college degree, graduating from high school is merely one step in a continued educational process. And not only that, a 4-year degree is expected for most entering the workforce. The one-up educational advantage a bachelor’s degree once had is now placed on a master’s level degree or higher.
It’s hard to feel more like an adult when you’re still spending the majority of your day in the classroom.It's hard to feel more like an adult when you're still spending the majority of your day in the classroom. Click To Tweet
2. Delayed Decisions
With college being the general next step in life for young adults, a new 4-year period of limited responsibility has been created. On average, college students change their majors three times throughout their undergraduate career.* Commitment levels are lowered during this exploration phase of development. It’s not that college-age people are shirking responsibility—they just don’t have to make big decisions yet.
It’s hard to feel more like an adult when you don’t have to make “adult decisions” about family and work for four or more years.It's hard to feel more like an adult when you don't have to make 'adult decisions' for 4 or more years. Click To Tweet
3. Delayed Family Life
The college-age years now represent a time for exploration, spontaneity, autonomy, and freedom. For many, marriage and career mark the end of the adventure and bring in a time of what appears to be monotonous stability—in other words, an exchange of fun and thrill for boredom and routine. While that’s not necessarily true, the perception exists nonetheless.
It’s hard to feel more like an adult when you haven’t donned the traditional roles of family and career.It's hard to feel more like an adult when you haven't donned the traditional roles of family and career. Click To Tweet
4. Financial Dependence
Over 60 percent of college-age people get some type of financial help from their parents. It’s no wonder when you consider the average cost of a 4-year degree is over $40,000.* With the understood expectation of a 4-year degree to enter the workforce, we’re seeing a larger and larger percentage of college-age adults getting financial assistance from home.
It’s hard to feel more like an adult when you still get money from mom and dad.It's hard to feel more like an adult when you still get money from mom and dad. Click To Tweet
As you minister to college-age people, keep these areas in mind. Don’t take it personally if you see a lack of commitment. Remember, your goal is to assimilate college-age people into the body of the church by helping them through the transition from adolescent dependence into mature independence. In a sense, college-age people have a foot on both sides of the fence.
Build relationships, be available, and most importantly, point them to Christ during this transformational time.Build relationships, be available, and point them to Christ during this transformational time. Click To Tweet