what’s your theology of development?

i wrote a web article for the immerse journal blog back in july. then i forgot about it. so it was a nice surprise to see it show up there today! and, the funny timing is: i wrote this before we’d decided to do the extended adolescence symposium. it’s proof i’ve been stewing on this for a while!

here’s a selection from the article:

I was on the phone with a well-known author the other day, talking about extended adolescence. He was asking me questions—in a healthy, skeptical way—about my slowly evolving contention that while we need to acknowledge cultural realities and do ministry in their context, the juggernaut of extended adolescence is something we can and should undermine, at least in our own homes and churches.

After almost 30 minutes of conversation, we arrived at a key crossroads. He made a statement I find to be indicative of the majority opinion of American adults: “It seems to me that the problem you’re referring to comes down to the self-centeredness of young adults today. They’re extremely selfish and have no interest in taking responsibility or becoming adults.”

I paused and took a breath. Then I responded (trying to use “yes, and” language rather than “you’re wrong” language), “Yes, I can totally see why you would say that. Today’s young adults do tend to have a level of narcissism that wasn’t as dominantly present 20 years ago. But that begs the question of why. I suggest they’re narcissistic because they’ve spent their entire lives in families and classrooms and churches and marketing messages that consistently tell them, that everything is all about them. To blame young adults for being narcissistic is like blaming an attack dog for biting. We have isolated teenagers, and now young adults, and then told them their culture is better than ours. Why would they ever want to grow out of that stage of life? How could they?”

click through to read the rest. there’s some good stuff in the comments section, btw.

click here to check out the info on the extended adolescence symposium.

3 thoughts on “what’s your theology of development?”

  1. more sarcastic responses that my actual approach/theology of development, though these do work their way into my actual thoughts:

    1) a little bit of revisionist history on our parts, when we read old books from 1800 or even Greco Roman times we often hear the same thing about young people not growing up as early or acting mature…seems like maybe nothing has changed even though I know there is a difference

    2) we de-develope back to Junior High maturity. The height of maturity is early Junior year of high school after we’ve gotten our first ticket and have (hopfeully) become a good and mature driver. Then we quickly de-develope or return to our Junior High maturity level and live that out more and more the rest of our lives. Just look at how Seniors in high school, twenty-somethings, parents and senior adults live and treat each other and it looks a whole lot like Junior High minus the excuses (and sometimes minus the fun).

    sorry, the first post isn’t a serious answer, I’ll think about it overnight and try to remember to answer seriously in the morning.

    wait, did I just prove my own point in number 2?

  2. more serious take

    1) I try to keep in mind, for my sanity, where society is at and remember that even twenty-something’s are not necessarily used to being asked to step up, be mature, act like adults, etc.

    2) I try for everyone’s sake to enjoy and utilize the blessing of delayed maturity…less jaded and set in their ways than “adults” (hopefully), more open to accepting some of the crazy things God asks us to do like abandon or never even capture the American dream and act because you’re convinced God told you to, leave your culture to work with Christ in establishing His kingdom in another culture, etc. I often tell them Christ has every intention of ruinging their life (from a worldly perspective) so He can give them a life they could never imagine

    3) I try to encourage and when necessary even demand maturity…as a group they always step up even if some individuals never do. This is true for Junior High as much as High School and College. We try to have as much fun as possible but each stage is capable of much more than we give them credit even when we’re trying to remember that.

    4) I always try to pair them with mentors…I’m a total fan of JH, HS and twenty-somethings filling virutally any role. I’m a total fan of stretching them more than they think they’re able to go. I’m an even bigger fan of making sure they have a mentor (someone at least one stage older) nearby to help them through it or at least be there for the aftermath whether it is good or bad. It is completely fair to push them beyond their comfort zone and throw them to the wolves so they have to try even if they fail, it is not fair to do so without given them necessary training and support.

    5) I try to help them map out the dreams in their head that many in this generation seem unable to put legs to
    What do you like/want to do, presumably for Christ?…they’re good at this
    How are you going to get there?…delayed adolescence is bad at this part
    What are you doing to get there? What should you be doing to get there?…very similar or even identical to the previous question, this generation also struggles here
    What do you in the meantime if you can’t get there now? homework/research? growth both spiritually and educationally for where you want to go? being present for Christ in the situation you are currently in even if that is flipping burgers which should warrant much more respect than our cutulre and this generation give it?

    There’s probably a whole lot more but that’s what comes to mind at the moment
    Great question

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