Written by Gabe Jackson
These past couple of months have been full of a lot of lasts for me: my last soccer game, last day of school, last time I would see some friends, last Wednesday night youth, and last time going to Camp Clark Williamson and CPYC as a camper. At both camps, there was a time set aside where everyone laid their hands on all the seniors as sort of a “send off” into the world. I couldn’t help but wonder both times what being sent off into the world meant for my faith journey.
Now I am coming up on a lot of firsts. For the first time since I was four years old, I won’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. to be at school on time. For the first time I won’t have to go straight to soccer practice, and for the first time I won’t have someone waking me up on Sunday morning to tell me to get ready for church.
Whether I liked it or not, growing up in a religious household has always provided me with structure. My mother believed that having a schedule is one of the most important parts of a child’s development. However, now that I have graduated, it is time to make my own structure. I have to get myself to class on time, I have to be responsible for my physical health, and now I have to be the one to wake myself up on Sunday mornings and get to church.
I think your young adult years are some of the most vulnerable years in your faith walk. I have been fortunate enough to experience going to a big church with thousands of members to now being a Cumberland Presbyterian, a much smaller denomination with smaller congregations. I have noticed in both, though, that youth ministry seems to be a strong aspect of the church because, as I mentioned before, most of the youth have the support of their family; plus, summer camp is a staple in everyone’s childhood. Also, the older congregation is strong, too, as most of them still come from the time where everybody went to church, and that’s just part of their weekly schedule. However, there is this awkward middle period when you are a young adult where you are not a youth anymore, you can’t go to camp and do all the fun youth activities, but you also don’t feel like a “real adult,” especially compared to the elders in the church. So, you are in this state of not exactly knowing where you belong.
I believe the scariest part for me is just walking through the doors. A lot of college students will probably find themselves in a similar position as myself as I am moving six hours away to attend university. Most of us are fresh out of high school experiencing freedom for the first time, moving to a new city, and meeting all new people. So, maybe after all this newness, they just simply don’t want to add the pressure of stepping into a new church with more new people, so it’s just easier not to go.
Stepping through the doors is the hard part, but I am sure once I make it past that point, I will find it easier to get even more connected with groups outside of Sunday service that can surround me with people my age that will help me grow.
However, just like going to class on time or working out, if I am going to be successful in continuing my faith journey, I have to prioritize it immediately and make it a part of my schedule or else I know I won’t do it. I already know what church I will be attending in the fall. I have reached out to my youth pastors and counselors about how I can stay active in the denomination even after my days as a camper have come to a close. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for me in this next chapter of my life. Thank you for allowing me to think out loud.