In the July NZ Baptist, on behalf of Carey Baptist College’s Intermission programme, Sam Kilpatrick raised some difficult questions in his article, “What do young adults see?”
From my own experience as a student, my first thought regarding these young adults is that after the Intermission course, they will return to their fellowships quite different people. Is it an opportunity to change the mode of your relationships with others back home? Perhaps from adult-child to a more equal footing – one where you help others as much as they help you?
Sam asked us “ordinary people” to speak with young adults, go out for a meal, fishing, or drinking. Unspoken responses might be: “What, they speak?” “Can I afford that much food?” “There’s an app for that?”And, “You mean coffee or smoothies?”
Rather more seriously, in today’s rush-rush world you’ll probably find that the spouse of said person is ahead of you in line for a date like this (except maybe the fishing) – however don’t be put off by this.
It takes two to tango, a “lead” and a “follow.” If you want to find a place in the community why ask another to lead you to the dance? Why not take the lead?
You have completed Intermission and it opened your eyes to more than a few things and encouraged even more questions. Rather than expecting your tutor to drive everything, isn’t it now up to you to ask the important questions and to pursue the answers?
Are you imagining “ordinary people” to be in their 20s, 30s, your parents’ age, or even older? All have a message, but for this you might surprise yourself and enjoy a closer meeting-of-minds with the grandparent generation. Your pastor will be happy to nominate folk you might not at first consider.
Sam tells us that Carey’s Intermission students would love to hear from “ordinary” people in a weekly interview spot at Carey.
If you accost someone in the pew: “I want to examine your theology and how you’ve applied it to your life with a view to making you a rôle model,” the first reaction will almost certainly be a gulp, followed by a haunted expression, and then furtive glances seeking a fast get-away car.
Similarly, an invitation to speak at Carey would likely cause observable palpitations. Most people do not see themselves as either theologians or examples of excellence and will resist any idea that you might want to dissect and double-guess their past. Plus, you’ve spent a year studying in some detail. Such opportunity, even over many years, may have eluded the “ordinary person.” So, how to make it less imposing?
Why not gather a handful of like-minded peers (it seems easier to cope with new situations in company) then invite yourselves to an older couple’s place for an ice-cream supper or afternoon tea? You could pool your resources to buy the frozen goods and maybe some fruit to accompany. Continue to keep your visit non-threatening by asking if you can talk about how they met, how their family developed, careers and so forth.
Chances are, the stuff you want to hear will emerge from the conversation and you can ask “how did you know?” questions as the picture widens. This sort of conversation, perhaps over repeat visits, will also help you to see how people (just like you) attempted to balance their career choice with working out their faith and responsibilities to care for each other.
An older person may illustrate what I think of as connections: How God prepares us earlier in our lives, which we may not (fully) understand then, but later we find ourselves in a situation ready and able to complete something a step beyond.
We all have questions and ponder approaches to the challenges of life. As you become more aware of others in your community, as individuals, you may find an older someone who makes sense (and hopefully, prepared to take time to talk with you) who will establish a mentor relationship. You won’t agree on every point but having someone prepared to let you bounce ideas and wrestle with turning hopes into reality – wouldn’t that be pure gold?
As you spend time getting to know other adults, will you better understand their preferences? As you share ideas, will they become aware of yours? This will likely help with your concerns about sermons and music, and topics of social concern. We worship in communion so it has to be a mix of “together.” The same applies to the church’s mission. We can’t do everything, so how do we decide what to do, when, and where?
Studies of social media (I recommend S. Craig Watkins’ The Young and the Digital, Beacon Press, 2009) are showing that the longer people spend online, the more gated they tend to become, reducing their number of friends and narrowing the range of topics viewed and discussed. This is almost unnoticeable if you are one of the “us” but quite apparent if one of the “them.” Taking to the waves of the Internet seems to offer bounteous opportunity, but who will be your guide?
You could probably have completed studies similar to Intermission’s Bible and World View topics online. What value, both academic and social, did you gain from being there, in person, in the real world, that you would have missed doing it via computer?
Grouped social media is, however, great for helping keep in touch with, for example, your Intermission colleagues. Have you formed a Facebook group, or perhaps decided to be more professional on LinkedIn? You might be able to combine the work and communion with people in your locality, with a continuation of the sharing and mutual encouragement enjoyed at Carey – a way of doing your own thing with like-minded people that may not even be possible among your local contemporaries.
• David Neil says his time in youth work was so long ago he struggles to remember. After another stint overseas, he is catching up with what’s happening in North Auckland and New Zealand today.