Thursday, June 18, 2020

How to Launch Teens into Adulthood

Last month, Brett McKay’s “Art of Manliness” podcast published a fascinating interview that is an absolute must-listen for all youth ministry workers. While youth ministry wasn’t the focus of the interview, the conversation was exceptionally relevant and highly applicable to the struggles that our Millennials and Gen Z’ers are experiencing, including the difficulty for our youth to walk through the transition from adolescence into adulthood. Author of a book titled “Failure to Launch,” clinical psychologist Dr. Mark McConville PhD explains in his interview that there exists 3 tasks that an emerging adult has to master in order to successfully transition into adulthood. Let us unpack each of these and how they impact your youth ministry.

Most curious from Dr. McConville’s research is a prevalence for our youth to possess a “phobic avoidance of doing very simple administrative tasks.” Whether it be cleaning one’s room, keeping a job, or doing something as simple as scheduling a doctor’s appointment, our youth tend to display a militant resistance against the types of tasks that are common—and in some cases, even critical—for one’s ability to function within the coming years of adulthood. Dr. McConville shares insight from the field, explaining that his clients commonly express the fear they won’t be taken seriously within the areas of their lives that adults have historically managed on behalf of them. Perhaps this may hint at a point of view where Millennials and Gen Z’ers may feel that they were not comprehensively taught sufficient life skills by the previous generations. Another way to look at it may be likened to one’s ability to swim. Instead of taking instructor-led swimming classes that eases the person into the watersport, our students may feel like they are being metaphorically tossed into the deep end of life (whether they were ready or not). For the young adults who find themselves drowning in the real world and in need to be rescued, if becomes baffling and/or frustrating to be scolded by the older generations who accuse them for not trying hard enough.

Dr. McConville notes that once an individual turns 18, a sudden bombardment of available options and opportunities can cause an increase in anxiety within the emerging young adult. A reason for this may be that they think they have to do it on their own or that they feel they need to have a perfect plan in place before making a move on bigger life decisions. Should both of these concerns be present, it becomes a concoction that causes paralysis towards the pursuit of societal relevance. To help battle against this, Dr. McConville recommends that we share portions of our journey and the stumbling blocks we encountered along the way. By being vulnerable, we humanize the process of entering adulthood and help towards making the concept of “adulting” more accessible. Dr. McConville continues, explaining that launching into adulthood is not like traveling on a highway into their future, but instead like ascending a climbing-wall that has different ledges to grasp along the way. In other words, we as youth ministers can help our teens understand that much of life is working through the challenges and obstacles as we encounter them. Rather than precisely mapping our entire journey ahead of time, we simply just begin the journey and then proceed to shift our feet and hands from the vantage point of each moment that the climbing-wall of life provides to us.

Dr. McConville defines the process of becoming more relational as “developing relationships that in some way are instrumental to [their] own process of growing up.” He explains that by walking alongside the individual and working together to achieve a goal, mentorship helps our youth to not only find their way around the world, but also to help them build confidence in themselves. By walking alongside our students, we deshame the process of learning while also effectively dismantling any insecurities that our youth may have. Host Brett McKay notes in the interview that as the teen grows older, the relationship between them and their parents needs to become less vertical and more horizontal. Similarly, through sincerity and authenticity, a youth minister is one of the best individuals to help convey to a teen that they are needed by the community. Instead of just telling a teen what to do or how to live, a youth minister can become consultative in two movements: first, by offering students opportunities to conduct ministry; and second, by walking alongside their students and helping them to achieve the goal at hand. During the interview, Dr. McConville asks, “In a nutshell, how do we create a necessity that the youth will respond to, by adjusting [and] by creatively solving a problem? That’s the mystery of motivation…to create a system of necessity.” Youth ministry is one of the very best areas in a teen’s life where this is possible. To help your church in building such a system of necessity, order your copy of Youth Empowered today and learn more about how you can establish a student-led youth ministry that challenges and empowers your students to own their faith and confidently pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let's Connect! Follow on Twitter: @SeanBuono

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