Launching Young Adults
Curt Grice, Associate Pastor of Educational Ministries
First Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas
After years of saying, “When I grow up, I’m gonna be…” there comes a point when your child must actually take the necessary steps to make it happen. Dr. James Dobson calls ages 16 to 26 the “critical decade” as young people transition from childhood to an adult. We’ve all heard the phrase “failure to launch”… describing young men and women who struggle to make that transition. Unfortunately, more and more parents are inadvertently keeping their children from growing up by protecting them from the risks and responsibilities necessary for entering adulthood. How can you be intentional about helping your child become a healthy, responsible adult?
STEP ONE: Be a good coach
As a parent, you continue to be your child’s primary “coach” in late adolescence. However, the nature of your “coaching” changes in the late teens/early 20’s. You can motivate, encourage, challenge and advise, but it’s difficult to force. You can help your son or daughter discover passion, expand perspective, challenge thinking and remember the “basics”, but the time has come for them to truly own their beliefs. Through that process, you need to provide a safe environment to wrestle with and even question the values they learned as children. The key to your influence at this point is in maintaining a strong relationship and open communication.
STEP TWO: Give perspective to big questions
Making the transition into adulthood, your son or daughter will face big questions like: What kind of work should I do? Where should I live? What should I do with my life? The most important thing you can do during this season is direct your child to God and his Word. King David’s counsel to his son, Solomon, (1 Chronicles 28:9) provides a great model for parents advising their young adults: “And you, my son, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” (NIV)
In addition to the practical advice parents need to offer about setting goals, finding a job and choosing a spouse, we must also promote basic Christian life principles like these:
- Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
- Love God with all your heart. (Matthew 22:37).
- You must lose your life to find it (Luke 9:23-24).
- Trust in the LORD and do good. (Psalm 37:3).
- Delight yourself in the LORD (Psalm 37:4).
- Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1).
STEP THREE: Keep letting out line
You can’t turn loose of the rope all at once! It’s important that you assist your young adult in becoming emotionally and financially independent over a period of several years. Help them understand the connection between choices and consequences. Allow them to own the results of their decisions. Drive home the reality of “opportunity cost”… sometimes saying “yes” to one option means saying “no” to all other options.
STEP FOUR: Provide a vision for marriage and family
Parents sometimes go to extremes to help their children get ready for college and the workforce, but fail to prepare them for the more important work of marriage and family. While a small minority are called to life-long celibacy, most of us will get married and have a family. It’s hard to overstate how much marriage and family serve as the organizing structure of life and the primary arena for spiritual development. You have a vital part to play in helping your child confidently and competently establish his or her own family unit. It starts by actively modeling a Christian family in your home. You also need to pray for your child’s future spouse. Our highly sexualized, low commitment culture makes it essential that you help your child form healthy attitudes and expectations about marriage and family as part of their successful launch into adulthood.
Pastoral insights from Kurt Bruner, The Center for Strong Families
GOING FURTHER – Resources
Life on the Edge by Dr. James Dobson
Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey by Jonathan Morrow
Letting Them Go by Dave Veerman
How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
The Freshman 15 by Kate Henderson
Boundless.org webzine provides young adults with access to a community of Christ-followers who can help them navigate the season of transition from high school to starting a family.
GOING FURTHER – Church Support
Our College Ministry, led by Nick Pitts, offers programs and events designed to help college-age young adults develop community, explore truth and gain biblical perspective in a safe and challenging environment. Contact Nick at email@example.com.
Our Young Adult Ministry, led by Reggie Jacob, includes a group of “20-Somethings” who study, play, worship and do life together each week. Contact Reggie at firstname.lastname@example.org.