No longer emerging but not quite an adult
The church has always been a place that holds to tradition. Yet the reality of living in a world post-pandemic is that many of the traditions we held dearly have evolved into something entirely different. So the church has a choice: will it continue to affirm its old ways or will it conform to the needs society has for community at this moment in time? What has made Taylor Swift so successful is not that she held tightly to a specific genre, but rather that every one of her albums resonates with her own life transitions–from pop, to indie, to rock-Taylor Swift has made music that could provide a little bit of something to almost everyone. Church communities can do much the same. The solidifying piece about being in a church body is not that everyone’s faith looks the same, but that there is something in that faith community that resonates with someone in the particular life transition they find themselves in.
In The Reciprocating Self, Positive adult development Psychologist, Daniel Levinson believes that adult development can best be understood as individuals seeking to find their niche in society. Individuals construct their own “life space” by creating a “stable life structure.” Finding a community that embraces curiosity and acknowledges our need to define who we are is a necessity for our identity development. These experiences shape our self-narrative, helping us to make sense of our identity within a community.
Transitional periods represent times in life that serve as bridges between two eras or developmental periods. When people realize that they are moving out of their twenties, they begin to understand that they are laying the foundations for their lives. At the age of 27 Taylor Swift released her infamous album, Reputation, a hard-hitting album drop that deviated from her typically innocent pop country lyrics of old. For many followers, this felt like a pivotal moment. Was the innocence of Taylor Swift gone forever? For many, there was no going back. But when you listen closely, all of Taylor’s songs have to do with one thing: Love. Love is at the center of them all. Not just romantic love but the kind of love that transcends throughout one’s life, regardless of age. For many, this solidified Taylor Swift’s identity. Taylor Swift’s songs align with what we know about all adults in their late twenties to early thirties–this is a time of identity solidification and the desire for meaningful, loving relationships.
Forgive me while I liken Taylor Swift’s Reputation album to the moment when Jesus flipped over the tax collectors’ money tables in the temple. In Matthew 21:13 Jesus proclaimed that the money lenders were turning a “house of prayer into a den of thieves.” By no means am I making the comparison that the Eras tour should be used as a guidebook for how to go about identity solidification, but much like Jesus models in this story, we have to take a stand for something in our twenties. Jesus’ ministry ended when he was crucified which was believed to be around the age of 33. This means that in a few short years, he solidified his entire earthly identity as the son of God, not because of the affirmation he received from the religious community around him, but because of his own coming of age as the son of God and man.
Identity solidification doesn’t have to be feared. It is a time of continued exploration and renewed curiosity into the person God is calling us to be. The purpose of a healthy community is not to provide answers, but to provide a footing for us to solidify who we are as we grow, mature and transition throughout our lives. Being immersed in a community where spiritual and intellectual curiosity are welcomed and embraced provides a platform for people to find their footing no matter how old. A healthy faith community can offer people opportunities to explore, creating space for people to take ownership of their spiritual journey in the context of community. This is the ideal. And this seems to be what the eras tour gave people. It gave them a vision to hold onto, much like Jesus invites his followers to do over and over again throughout his ministry.
Questions to consider when looking at a church’s ideology:
- How does the church respond to issues of social justice in your community?
- How does the church embrace diversity? Women in leadership?
- How does your church respond when hard questions are asked?
- Does your church embrace doubt or is it shameful?
- How open are the older adults in your congregation?
- Are older adults open to fostering mentorship relationships with younger people?
- What forums already exist for intergenerational communities to form?
1. Balswick, J. O., King, P. E., & Reimer, K. S. (2016). The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective. InterVarsity Press. 221.
Eras: What do Taylor Swift and the church have in common? (Part 1)
What can the church learn from the success of the Eras tour? Part 1 of a 3-Part Series.
Created for Community (Part 1): How We Moved Away From our Village
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