Who Live and Love Like Jesus
Millennial Me – Part I of a Series: Young Adults, the Need for Meaning & Purpose and the Role of the Church in Making the Connection.
Why is it important for churches to help young adults discover purpose and meaning?
Pastor Leonard Tanks, Jr. here. You can call me Tanks! I was born in 1985 which makes me a millennial. Finding meaning and purpose in all I do is something that has always plagued me. In fact, I could say that it wasn’t until this year really that I discovered my purpose in life. Surprising for a pastor right? Some think that being a pastor is my purpose, but I look at being a pastor as my occupation. What God called me to be was never the question, but what type of pastor (my purpose as a pastor), I would be was always the question that left me lost and confused.
I can remember right before my ordination I told my ordination coach that I didn’t even want to go to the service. I told him that for the longest time I thought that becoming an ordained pastor would fill all the gaps that I had in ministry and all the voids that ministry left in my life. I thought that I would finally be taken seriously in ministry, but once I passed the ordination test nothing changed. I had a feeling of not fitting in or belonging and so that made me feel like, “Why bother?”. I was looking for meaning and purpose in my everyday activity.
By no means am I minimizing the office of pastor, I am simply expressing the empty feeling I had because the title alone didn’t give me any meaning. It wasn’t until my mentor, Pastor Trent Thomas said to me over the summer that working with young adults was the area where Christ was leading me. He said this in reaction to the joy I expressed over just being with the young adults at the basketball courts. Once he said that I went to my job, (where I was also struggling with finding purpose and meaning), and I asked to spend more time with the teens and to focus on them. When they said yes, my work days became meaningful and I finally found what was missing in ministry to me; purpose and meaning.
One thing people, specifically the Church has to remember when dealing with millennials, is that we are more interested in living lives defined by meaning than by what some would call happiness or success.
Young adults across the world find themselves in similar struggles. After graduating high school they enter into two ages: the age of identity where they are deciding who they are and what they want out of life and the age of self-focus and discovery where their entire lives which were directed by parents and school are now self-directed. They have to decide what they want and who they want to be before their options become limited by the constraints of marriage, children, and even careers. This is the period where churches will find themselves losing their young adult members because they see church as their parent’s thing, or because they don’t see Christianity as relevant anymore when they go to college and begin to encounter diversity. However, this is also the period where we as the church can strengthen young adult attendance if we help them find their purpose. During the discovery age, often times, the relationships and groups that provide meaning and purpose to us are the ones to whom we millennials dedicate ourselves.
Over the next few months, I will be posting thoughts on how the Church can get better at engaging, including and supporting the young adult community. Join in the dialogue as we try to live and love like Jesus.