As I travel to different parts of the world, I am realizing how America is greatly influencing the world. Of course, we need to note that not all of the influences are good. Even though we are influencing the world in various ways, with some level of humility, we have to acknowledge that there are some things we can learn from other nations and cultures.
One particular lesson is this whole idea of being considered a youth until you get married. In many of the countries that I have visited, I was shocked to find that a 20-something year old person and even up to a 30-something year old person is considered a youth if they are not married. For me, a youth is someone between the ages of 13-18 years. Can you imagine if we implemented this mindset here in the States? I don’t think it will fly very well. In fact, people would protest.
But before we dismiss this issue, let’s think about the logic behind it. Even though the reasoning behind it has a lot to do with societal and cultural values and norms, I am wondering if it is really a bad concept. In America we do not have a clear marker recognizing a person transitioning from youth to adulthood. In the Jewish culture, they have the Bar Mitzvah which recognizes the 13 year old entering into adulthood (wow). In other countries they have something similar.
What do we Americans have? (Hmm… good question). So the question is: “When are we really considered an adult?” Is there a certain age where we magically turn into “adults”? Are there certain criteria that validate us as an adult? The Webster’s Dictionary defines, “adult” as, “fully developed and mature.” Wiktionary defines it as, “A person who lives outside the parental home.” Now we are in trouble. When are we fully mature? Also, the number of people living with their parents after college is increasing. So is there a possibility that we are not as mature and “adults” as we would like to think.
So once again, the question is: “When are we considered an adult?” If truth be told, we have glorified the 20-somethings. What do I mean? When we look at many of the 20-somethings today it looks a lot like an extended adolescence (or glorified college life). Instead of developing and anticipating for the next stage of our lives (whether this includes marriage or not), we have delayed the whole transition. Right now the Toys R Us song is ringing in my mind – “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid… la, la, la.”
I am sharing this with all due respect to the 20-somethings in our church. I was at your stage at one point of my life. So in many ways, I understand some of the frustrations and struggles as a 20-something. It is not an easy time. You are trying to find out your purpose and direction in life. You are entertaining thoughts of marriage. You are trying advance in your career. There are so many things that are going on in your life at this stage.
So this all leads me back to the original reason for writing this blog. I have decided to call the single 20-somethings and the 30-somethings in our church “single adults” instead of “young adults.” The motivation behind this is very simple. It deals with 2 aspects:
1) EXPECTATIONS. I do not want to perpetuate the “extended adolescence” mindset in our church. The American Heritage Dictionary defines, “young” as, “of, belonging to, or suggestive of youth or early life.” When you coin the words, “young” and “adult” together it turns out to be an oxymoron. It seems very contradictory and incongruous. If we keep on calling people “young” then most likely they will live out that expectation. If we start calling people “adults” and we treat them as adults, then usually people will live up to that expectation. Maybe we have just been too lenient and expected nothing out of the 20- and 30-somethings. Low expectations result in lack of potential and growth.
2) EXPLANATORY. The FOCUS group in our church is comprised of “single” people who are in their 20s and 30s. The bottom line is simple – the term “single adults” is more of a descriptive term than anything else. I know there are some objections to this because of some of the negative connotations that come with the “single” label. Some objections are: a) It will give the impression that our group is like a “meat market” b) It will make the older single people more aware of their singleness and then add to their struggle. I am aware of these concerns, but I still feel like the disadvantages do not outweigh the overall goal and vision for our single adults. In some ways, this will put a greater responsibility on our FOCUS members to keep things spiritually-focused, so that our group WILL NOT turn into a meat market. Also, the FOCUS members will be encouraged to minister to those people who are struggling with their singleness.
As you know, I like to go against the flow; and the flow of people in their 20s and 30s living an extended adolescence is strong in the States. We have to fight this culture by raising up responsible, mature and passionate followers of Christ. Therefore, for all of you “single” adults out there, I pray that you will step up to plate and take on the challenge.