Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation
Jana L. Sundene and Richard R. Dunn
Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee
They call them the Millennial Generation. That doesn’t mean anybody can really tell where this generation might begin or when we will transition into the next arbitrary generational divide. What is often recognized, often by parents, advisors, and mentors of these emerging adults, however, is the increasing mobility and lack of rootedness of these 20-somethings and 30-somethings.
Jana Sundene and Richard Dunn, in their book, Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation write for an audience deeply engaged in the mentoring of emerging adults currently of the Millennial Generation. Drawing much from sociologists, such as Christian Smith, and experts in human development, Sundene and Dunn look at how to best approach a discipleship and mentoring relationship to help guide and shape the lives of emerging adults.
While this book may seem an attempt at an older generation pandering to mold the lives of their successors in forms that are recognizable to an “older way,” Sundene and Dunn recognize a voiced desire among the Millennial Generation for mentorship, especially among Christians. Far from being a cry against postmodernity or a lament on the moral decay and decadence of the succeeding generation, the authors seek to understand the Millennial Generation reality, and give guidance as emerging adults “chart new territory.” Any good craftsman knows that new global contexts and technology will emerge for his or her apprentices. Nonetheless, they seek to guide their apprentices in such a way as to catch a vision and carry forth the craft amidst the shifting change. Much is the same about crafting life. Sundene and Dunn purposefully shy away from mentoring formulas, but seek out a helpful rhythm in the mentoring relationship: discernment, intentionality, reflection.
Mentoring in the Christian context is more about disciple-making. Sundene and Dunn are unapologetic about seeking the spiritual growth of emerging adults, and it is obvious that it is their passion and life’s work. Discernment then stems from prayer and guidance from God. But discernment also comes from spending time with the emerging adult, listening to them, and coming to understand them. This also requires intentionality – a much needed and asked for component of relationships with emerging adults. In fact, intentionality is so important for the Millennial Generation because the plethora of information available to them lacks intentionality. It is like running in an open field, incredibly free, but with nowhere to run to. The Millennial Generation has an immense freedom to explore, but with such open freedom there is a lack of intentionality or purpose. The disciple-maker’s relationship with the emerging adult, if it is intentional and discerning, will always require reflection in order to keep the rhythm moving. It is, perhaps, this reflective piece that is so much more necessary in the relationship, because reflection is intentional.
Sundene and Dunn’s book is written to bring up a generation of disciple-makers (emerging adult mentors) among those in their mid-life or later years. However, even emerging adults, especially those in pastoral leadership, campus ministry, or any mentoring type relationship with young adults can gain from this book. The authors take the sociological findings of Smith and others, and instead of painting a doomsday picture, recognize the realities of the Millennial Generation seeking to be people of hope and intentionality. Personally, I have found the rhythms outlined to be very helpful and stretching in my own mentoring relationships with four Christian young men. As two of these relationships are cross-cultural, I can attest that the rhythms Sundene and Dunn outline prove to be transformative in cross-cultural mentoring relationships as well. Disciple-making in every generation is an important work – a life’s work. Disciple-making among the Millennial Generation requires a discerning, intentional, reflective, and relational journey to help emerging adults shape their craft of life and become disciples and future disciple-makers for emerging adults to come.
Kevin Book-Satterlee is the academic coordinator for Spearhead, Latin America Mission’s (www.lam.org) immersive missions apprenticeship program for young adults in Mexico City.