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Flourishing Update - September 9, 2020

Young Adult Identity Formation

Dr. Keith Walker is Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership at the University of Saskatchewan

As universities, colleges, polytechnics and other post-secondary institutions are commencing their Fall 2020 terms, I have been reviewing the fascinating study by Hiemstra, Dueck and Blackaby (2018), Renegotiating Faith: The Delay in Young Adult Identity Formation and What It Means for the Church in Canada. Beyond all else offered by this report, the researchers put young adults on the reader’s radar.

This week, I am asking: What will first time post-secondary education (PSE) students experience during this COVID-19 Fall academic term? What opportunities for connection and community will they experience? In the context of layered-on well-being challenges, arising naturally from the typical transition experiences of young persons to the extraordinary student needs associated with social distancing, remoteness and disruptions of patterns, what creative new approaches will be taken by congregations and campus ministries to provide service-to-student ministries? As foreshadowed in the title, young adults’ (18-28) identity formation has shifted over the last 40 years by roughly 5-7 years. In some ways all of us have been experiencing a “gap year.” What developmental implications will occur in this era and under these circumstances? What opportunities might strategically-minded congregations discern as unique, purposeful and timely opportunities afforded by COVID-19 on behalf of these young women and men? Before COVID-19 came along, the researchers said:

young adults going on to postsecondary studies are four times more likely to connect with a Christian campus group or chaplaincy if someone from their home church tries to make a connection for them. Groups with a strong sense of identity are by their nature exclusive, and most young adults need someone to create a way in for them through either an invitation or an introduction. (p.162)

What are congregations going to do to come alongside these students, whether as receiving hosts or sending connectors? Will they just be left out of sight, sent/received and on their own? What will the best practices of congregational hosting of international and domestic PSE students look like during the apparently ongoing COVID-19 times? What are some creative hosting approaches that might be undertaken? The researchers said that “roughly three-quarters of young adults who go on to connect with either a campus group or a new church do so within the first month of starting at a new school or new location” (p. 12); so timely contact and connecting is super important. They said that “it is vital that families, churches and ministries work to get them connected to new Christian communities in a timely manner. Young adults also need Christians and ministry leaders to identify their gifts and talents” (p. 13).

Across all three sectors (Catholic, Mainline and Conservative Protestants in Canada), we’ve heard expressions of concern for the loss of engagement with young adults in their journeys after high school. What accompaniment will Canadian congregations offer to engage post-secondary students during the Fall 2020?


What We Are Reading

Moral Leadership

Robert Michael Franklin

After listening to an online conversation with Robert Franklin and Michael Lamb (Link), I ordered and read Robert Franklin’s (2020) book: Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination. As former President of Morehouse College and currently Professor of Moral Leadership at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Dr. Franklin ably explored the agentic nature and calling of leaders who “serve the common good while inviting others to join them.” Into the confluences of COVID-19 scourge and surging calls to end historic inequities, Franklin is a life-illustrating activist-scholar-administrator who leaderfully provokes his readers to wonder for themselves what they should be - to do what must be done. I thoroughly enjoyed his short tutorials through his reflections on the teachings of many moral exemplars (ancient and contemporary). Many memorable framings and tailcoat stories from his own life (love his compass-setting grandmother) and his fluency with numerous moral and practical theologians. Many of whom will be well known by readers. I’ve become a Howard Thurman fan of late – so pleased that he takes some time with him and many others. I commend this book for its illustrations, its edge, its provocations and its “stand-up call” for “time is now” moral leadership and its development.

Dr. Keith Walker is Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership at the University of Saskatchewan


Upcoming Opportunities

Limited time offer of a free download of an article by Arch Wong, Bill McAlpine, Joel Thiessen, and Keith Walker on preparing leaders for ministry from the perspective of pastoral leaders and theological educators, clicking here.


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