By: Andy Whitaker Smith
One of the things I loved most about college was that with almost anyone you ran into, you could always find something in common with them. In so many situations, you could literally jump into someone’s conversation, someone whom you’ve never met, and two seconds later you’re part of the dialogue. In those moments when a connection comes from seemingly nowhere, and a person can talk to another person so openly and freely, I wonder if that’s a piece of what Jesus talked about as the Kingdom of God. Where there is no hesitation to connect, no walls that go up, but just seeing the person next to you, and just start sharing with one another.
Relationships are key in the young adult world. This is something that may or may not be discussed out loud, but it is certainly embodied. Our world revolves around it, our actions are guided by it, our lives are dependent upon it. We have a yearning for connection with others, to explore other people, to learn and experience other points of view, to see things differently than our own perspective. When I was a kid I loved playing with my many action figures: He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Super Powers. It got to the point where I’d end up with three or four of the same action figure because I would break them. I remember thinking one time about how boring it would be to have to play with the same action figure all the time. We crave diversity in all aspects of life, and a diversity of people is at the top of that list. While our friends are those who support us, those with whom we share common interests, sometimes the greatest friends we have are those with whom we hardly ever agree, who drive us totally insane, and we wonder why we’re even friends with them. But we are.
For some as young adults we begin entering a time when our relationships with our families—particularly our parents—begin to change. It becomes less defined by authority and becomes more about… if anyone can say what it does become, let me know. A strange sense of equality begins to seep in; parents start talking about their own lives and what’s bothering them (besides us, for a change). As many times as we tell our parents that we’re adults and can live our own lives, I would argue that few of us are actually ready for the day parents start taking that seriously. It can be difficult trying to find this new groove of “What is the relationship supposed to be now,” especially if we are still in the on-going struggle of “Who am I supposed to be?” Relationships that perhaps we at one time took for granted because they seemed so defined for us we now make a more personal investment in; as we struggle for self identity, we see that our parents’ identities are changing, too. I first started regularly attending church in my college town around the same time my parents were about to be appointed as lay pastors. It was interesting to see how each of us grew in our faith and were living out our faith, and what that meant for ministry in each of our lives. There was a strange sense that we were somehow going on similar paths in that my mother, my father, and I were all entering this new avenue of faith growth and ministry experience. It was around this time I became involved in a newly formed Young Adults Group in the United Methodist Church I was attending. As we came together we realized our desire was to discern what it meant to be a young adult and a follower of Christ in today’s society. Our learning and discovering of this identity became the foundation upon which our relationships with each other were made real and personal.
For many young adults in a church or searching for a church, our worship and our ministerial outreach are interdependent upon the relationships we have. This has become a strong element in how young adults participate in evangelism, although most of us would not want to call it evangelism. But what we do strive for is the experiencing and sharing of Christ in a myriad of ways in the relationships we form with others.
How do we see the role of relationships evolving how young adults in and out of the church are viewing what “evangelism” and “missional outreach” is?
See more devotions from Andy and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.