The Timeless Wisdom of Youths

Recently I’ve begun researching young adult spirituality. You see, I’m pretty convinced that the church is on the cusp of some major changes—or at least that it needs to be if it’s going to thrive, or perhaps even survive. [1] You may call me crazy, but I’m not the only one who thinks this. Ever heard of the “nones” and the “dones”? If not, Google it. If you spend much time reading what you find, or much time simply looking around our churches, for that matter, you’ll notice that things don’t look quite like they did a few decades ago. [2]

If the church is going to engage this challenge well, it’s going to need all hands on deck. We need the experience and wisdom of our older crew. We need the stability and presence of our middle-aged members. And we need the vision, energy, and passion of our children and young adults, particularly because the church of the future is the church they are destined to be a part of and to lead … or not. So while certainly attending to other things as well, I figured it might be wise to listen to what they had to say. Thus my research.

I started talking more purposefully with some college students in my life, asking them specifically about the ways in which they think spiritual formation happens best—in their own lives, for Christians in general, and for young people specifically. They’ve had some insightful things to say, y’all. And we need to listen. Because what they said rings true, and not just for young adults. Nor are their insights just applicable for a time in which the church is facing a challenge of membership and discipleship. Whether or not they know it, these young adults are carrying around some timeless wisdom. (Thanks to any of you who have gone a step or two ahead of them on the journey and served a role in helping them gain it!)

These young adults are the future of the church. And I’m excited about that. Because what they’ve got to say about the influence of Christian community (in both positive and negative ways), the power of vulnerability, the impact of spiritual disciplines, and the transformational effects of diversity—it’s beautiful. Church, we need to listen and learn! I hope you’ll join me in the coming weeks as I share with you more about their perspectives.

[1] For a great read on transformative shifts in church culture over the past two millennia, pick up Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.
[2] For some straightforward statistics that help us understand the trend toward post-Christian America and the rise in numbers of those who “love Jesus but not the church,” check out Barna’s work: 2015 Sees Sharp Rise in Post-Christian Population and Meet Those Who “Love Jesus but Not the Church”. It’s particularly interesting to note that it’s not just, or even primarily, millennials who are disconnecting from the church. This is a wider issue the church is facing.

Laura Callarman is a house church member and minister in Abilene, Texas. She completed an MDiv (Missions) degree at ACU, meeting her husband Rosten in Greek class on the first day. They have been married since October 2012 and have one adorable son, Asher, who was born in May 2015, an amazing daughter, Evangeline who joined them in September 2017, as well as an amazing dog, Sydney, who looks like a dingo. Laura and Rosten are part of an intentional community that is in the process of launching the Eden Center, a retreat facility outside of Abilene offering opportunities for spiritual renewal, creative innovation, and missional training. And in 2017, Laura began the Doctor of Ministry program at ACU, focusing her research on young adult spirituality and missional formation.

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Author:  Publish Date: March 27, 2018

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
Dr. Carisse Berryhill
Dr. Jason Fikes
Karissa Herchenroeder
Mac Ice
Chai Green
Tammy Marcelain
Molly Scherer
Dr. John Weaver

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