Additional "YA Ministry Resources" Articles

 

Worlds Apart: Understanding the Mindset and Values of 18-25 Year Olds
Published: 12/4/2012 1:43:05 PM

 


By Chuck Bomar    Zondervan/ Youth Specialties 
Reviewed by Matt Behrens

Worlds Apart is not Chuck Bomar's first book dealing with college-age ministry.  However, in contrast to his previous books Worlds Apart offers much more theoretical background in line with its goal of helping the reader to understand "the mindset and values of 18-25 year olds.  His previous books offered more in the way of hands-on practical advice, especially directed at ministry leaders.  This most recent offering outlines personality traits and generational norms of college-age people, alongside relationship coaching directed to parents.  Bomar says the book is for parents and ministry leaders, but the language speaks more directly to parents of late adolescents.
   
Overall, Bomar paints an accurate picture of college-age individuals.  He notes differences in cultural influences which have shaped the current generation of student-age young adults, and does well contrasting this with previous (think youth leaders and parents) generations.  For those familiar with developmental theories from Erikson and Fowler, Bomar's brief outlines of developmental psychology focused on late adolescence and faith formation will be review.  However, he does a good job of demonstrating how these theories help to identify and explain the unique challenges late adolescents are faced with in our contemporary Western culture.  Particularly helpful here are the case studies he provides in chapter four highlighting the impacts of higher education on an individual's search for identity, and his five "stages' of identity formation (an expansion of four states proposed by psychologist James Marcia - Bomar adds a theological dimension) outlined in chapter seven.
   
Throughout the book, Bomar is encouraging adult readers to engage in relationships with college-age people.  The goal of these relationships is faith formation.  I appreciated the fact that the language he uses does not presuppose the need for a conversion experience in the life of every college-age person.  Probably because he is writing to Christian parents and church leaders, his assumption is that the majority of our conversations with this age group are going to take place with young adults who have grown up in Christian environments.  At the same time, he does not assume this background equates with a currently strong faith life and this keeps his encouragement and advice grounded in the reality of a sinful world.
   
Like many youth ministry books the information here will feel dated rather quickly.  In less than a decade the composite of college-age people will look different.  Some of the influencing factors for current 20-somethings will be replaced by other influences more memorable for the next generation of students.  Bomar's evaluation of current 18-25 year olds in American society is accurate, but will most likely begin to lose some congruency in the next 6-7 years.  If that sounds like a long time, realize that by the time this year's high school freshman are college seniors, just seven years will have passed.

The focus of this book is strongly centered on advice for building relationships with 18-25 year olds.  What is taught through those relationships is left somewhat open-ended.  Bomar's assumption is that you are teaching the faith.  Since he is not attempting to teach doctrine, his book remains useful for people outside of his denomination.  There is not much here which Lutheran readers will question.
   
With that said, realize that Chuck Bomar is not a Lutheran and we should not expect him to sound like one.  If you pick up this book know that Bomar does have specific expectations for how mature Christian faith manifests itself in an individual.  This includes things like experiencing God daily, being able to identify what specific things God is teaching you, and being able to explain when and why you decided to follow Jesus.  His language in a few cases leans toward making the emotional experiences of faith quantifiable proof of faith.  These are not major themes of the book, but you should expect to reframe a few of his statements to fit a Lutheran worldview.    
   
The best reader for this book is the adult who wants to get a general picture of who toady's college-age people are.  It can be a good introduction or a good review.  Because Bomar paints some pretty specific pictures of personality traits and attitudes, the book lends itself to discussion.  Ministry leaders working with college-age people will find Bomar's descriptions either exact representations of people they know, or amalgamations of their particular young adult groups.  It could be an interesting book to read for discussion with parents of college freshmen.  Bomar's specific examples would generate good discussion.  Overall, Bomar does a good job.  For those interested in forming relationships with college-age people Worlds Apart offers a basic theoretical foundation and solid practical advice. 

By Matt Berhens

Used with permission by www.youthESource.com

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