It’s still all about relationships

As I continue this discovering of Brian Simmon’s work in Wandering in the Wilderness: Changes and Challenges to Emerging Adults Christian Faith, I am beginning to understand that Brian might have articulated a pretty solid book for ministers, students, and parents to read.  This latest chapter on relationships and college students begins to outline some of the simple yet challenging pieces of emerging adult relationships.  And in order to fully get where he is going, we’ve got to refer back to our old friend Robert Putnum.

Putnum, in the 1999 book Bowling Alone lays out that we as a society have become so isolated from one another that we are doing things along, even bowling.  Many young adults and even some older ones have traded in their face to face relationships for facebook and other social media relationships.  In fact, more people are meeting their dating partners online than ever before.  And yet, as Putnum attests, we’re more alone than we have ever been.

Simmon’s has a wonderful story of a student who asks to friend him after finishing a class with him during a semester.  His student adds that he has 1,100 + friends on facebook and he would like to include Brian, who challenges his ability to have friendships with this many people.  We as campus ministers have to challenge these kinds of relationships as well, where the primary designation of a friend might be anyone who can “be there.” This being there might mean responding to things on facebook.  Consider the following.

Many of the facebook statuses currently being found on facebook are looking for a response.  When someone posts… “well, that was sure interesting,” or posts a website or news article, they are looking for a response.  Inadvertently, even unconsciously, we have begun making social media requests for response on our facebook status.  We’re hungry for more interaction, and we’re not getting ourselves any closer to a solution.

Instead, it’s time for us as ministers on campus to remind students about what authentic relationships are all about.  Simmons’ earlier discussion on marriage (see earlier post) returns as he once again reminds us that emerging adults see marriage as the finding of a soul mate.  Real relationships don’t always work out like this, and when we truly dig into face to face encounters with people, especially on an intimate environment such as a life partner, we all begin to realize the complexity and challenges of living with people and spending life with another.  This can be somewhat diminished from within the community setting of campus ministries.

But in the end, everything returns to relationships.  For Emerging adults, relationships are the reason they are going to show up for these communities anyway.  We have to figure out how to grow communities through the relationships our students already have.  And once that happens, our impact upon the relationships students have with each other can change, even if it’s slow and tedious.

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