A key characteristic of the Faith Avenue is cross-generational care. Within your church community you may be having conversations about investing in or pouring into young people. What do we mean by investing?
By Cara Garrity, Development Coordinator
When considering cross-generational care, it is important to first ask what good care looks like. It is consistent across all generations that wholeness is found only in Christ, so care is intimately linked to our lifelong journey of becoming in Christ—our pathway of discipleship. Good care, then, looks like discipleship. A fundamental question we must ask is “how will we be a community of discipleship for this generation?” I believe that this is the foundation of healthy expressions of cross-generational care, and that it can shape how we invest in our emergent generations.
If investment in young people is shaped by care as discipleship, it will prioritize the journey of the disciple. What difference does this make? Our motivation for investment informs the ways in which we invest and the “return” we expect to see. We do not invest in emergent generations out of utilitarian motives to increase leadership and ministry capacity. We do not invest as a transaction contingent upon what we can get out of someone. Nor do we invest in emergent generations out of irreverent notions that “newer is always better.” We invest in young people because Jesus continues to be alive and active in raising up generation after generation, and he invites us to participate alongside him. We invest out of the abundance that we have received from God. We invest because we are called to be disciples who make disciples and deep discipleship requires deep investment. While we need not discount business models or tools of people investment and development, we are called to more than that as members of the living body of Christ. The “return” on this kind of investment is not self-serving – it is for the edification of the disciple and church to the glory of God.
A discipleship approach to investment in young adults will be relational, personal, formational, holistic, relevant, and responsive to discernment. It is deeply transformational for all involved. The persons investing in the discipleship of young adults are also transformed as they participate in Jesus’ ministry and respond to their own calling to be disciples who make disciples.
Investment of this sort plants a seed that the Spirit matures into healthy leaders and healthy churches. It emphasizes the development of a person as a disciple first and a Christian leader only secondarily in response to discernment of calling within community. In contrast, a utilitarian or transactional investment risks force-fitting people into leadership positions that are out of alignment with their calling, developing good leaders who are not mature disciples, overlooking some people because they do not fit a preconceived mold, or developing leaders who rely on human understanding and effort over the work of the Spirit. Through a discipleship approach to investment, leaders emerge in response to calling and gifting rather than simple need, aspiration, or misplaced expectation. When people are liberated to be the part of the body God has created them to be, the whole body is healthier.
I am convinced that embracing this kind of investment in young people will plant seeds that the Spirit will grow into dynamic intergenerational church communities of discipleship that incubate generations of mature Jesus followers and Christian leaders who participate in the work of Christ for their time.
In next month’s Equipper I will discuss some practical considerations to invest in young adults and emergent leaders in your church and community. For now, I invite you to reflect on the why and the impact of emergent generation investment. In what ways are your ideas about investment in emergent generations challenged or invigorated? What could it look like for your church to approach investing in emergent generations in this way?