What does it mean to become an adult? In order to reach adulthood, the individual must accomplish three developmental tasks: establish autonomy, develop community, and discover vocation. In this entry, I will briefly explain the task of developing a community, and its importance to human maturation.
One of the challenges facing emerging adults is social isolation. According to Frazee, “People need to be involved in meaningful and constant community or they will continue on indefinitely in a state of intense loneliness” (Frazee). The social isolation of emerging adults hurts their development because humans need community. Deci states,
The intrinsic need for relatedness leads people to be part of groups—initially their nuclear family, then larger groups, then society, and finally (one hopes) the global community—and this need, for good and for bad, opens people up to being socialized. (Deci)
Each individual is in need of a community that meets their need for connectedness.
In American society, the ultimate goal and dream has become independence (Frazee). Independence has become more than a goal; rather, it is seen as a necessity of life. Parks says, “The presumed needs of industrial society have spawned an almost pathological fear of dependence, reinforced by Freud’s insights about infantilization” (Parks). Although often seen in opposition with the concept of independence, a healthy emerging adult will be able to hold to their personal autonomy in the midst of community.
Community is essential to becoming an adult, and to the individual’s further development. Author Marjory Bankson says, “Even when our conscious minds reject interdependence as ‘childish,’ something in us knows that we are connected to a web of life that we cannot count or control” (Bankson). Parks calls for an appropriate level of dependence when she says,
Young adults embody a post-adolescent quality of emerging strength yet are at the same time appropriately dependent upon the presence and quality of mentors and mentoring environments—education, economic, political, religious, and familial. (Parks)
Mentoring environments such as churches and educational institutions are essential to the further development of emerging adults.
Parents, churches, and educational institutions should seek to equip adolescents with the skills to seek and develop community. These social skills are essential for the maturation process. A biblical examination of the concept of community can guide the church as it helps emerging adults develop community (For a thorough study into the role of community in the Bible, please check out my forthcoming e-book.) God created humans for community with Him, and with one another.
Bankson, Marjory. The call to the soul: Six stages of spiritual
Deci, Edward and Richard Flaste. Why we do what we do: Understanding self-
Fowler, James. Becoming adult, becoming Christian: Adult development and
Frazee, Randy. The Connecting Church.
Parks, Sharon. Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentoring young adults in their
search for meaning, purpose, and faith.