Viktor Frankl on happiness:
Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.
He compares it to humor. If you want someone to laugh you don’t just command it. “LAUGH! NOW!” Instead you give them something to laugh about. You make a joke.
The same is true for happiness. You don’t just scream “BE HAPPY!” you give them something to be happy about. Pursue something worthwhile and you’ll find happiness along the way.
Some times I think we get screwed up because we think the way we stop worrying and having anxiety is by telling ourselves that the Bible says “don’t do it.” As if that’s all it takes.
“The Bible says not to do this so I can’t do this. STOP IT!”
But passages about worrying and anxiety are more than that. They tell us WHY we shouldn’t worry. God is in control.
Instead of trying to force ourselves to have peace, we need to pursue something (or someone) who gives us peace.
I’m feeling anxious. Are there any reasons why I shouldn’t feel this way?
God takes care of birds and grass and he loves me so much more than grass so I know he’ll take care of me. God will never leave me or forsake me. God is in control. I can go to God and cast all my fears on Him. He wants me to lean on Him.
Pick 5 evangelical churches at random across America and I’m sure, for the most part, their children’s ministries will all look similar, same with their youth, and their Sunday morning service. Sure there might be a few differences but for the most part there’s a universal look and feel almost everyone has adopted. That’s not the case with young adult ministry AT ALL. You’ll find 5 totally different approaches. There’s no consensus. We’re still trying to figure that one out.
What is the church supposed to do with the 20somethings?!
In the Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, there’s a great piece of footage where Rogers is thinking through his philosophy and purpose behind his TV show. He’s sitting at a piano talking about modulations in music (a fancy word for key changes). Some are easier than others. Some times you’re transitioning from F major to F# and that can be a pretty difficult. He draws a parallel to life and the difficult transitions we go through in childhood. He says he sees his calling is to be an adult that children can trust to help them though those modulations.
Being a young adult is all about facing an avalanche of new and terrifying transitions (modulations). In When Your 20s Are Darker Than You Expected Paul Maxwell points out that your 20s can be so stressful because for the first time ever you are completely in charge of yourself. You don’t have parents or school or any other outside authority governing your decisions. It’s suddenly all on you. You’re in charge of yourself, wholly and completely.
Where do you want to live? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? How will you spend your money? Who will you surround yourself with?
Just like Mister Rogers, I think a church’s young adult ministry should be designed around the modulation.
It shouldn’t just be “more youth” for those who’ve aged out.
It shouldn’t be “cool church for young people” either. You run the risk of building up a strong ministry that accidentally isolates 20somethings from the rest of the church. They don’t feel the need to attend Sunday services or get plugged in outside of their young adult service because it basically acts like a self sustained church, separate from everything else.
Design the ministry around modulations.
I think there are four main areas a young adult ministry should focus on in order to equip every 20something with what they need to brave these upcoming transitions.
FOUR PILLARS OF
YOUNG ADULT MINISTRY
Viktor Frankl says the greatest thing man is searching for in life is meaning. Once you find meaning, you will have a light to guide you through even the darkest seasons. In Man’s Search for Meaning Frankl consistently points to Nietzsche’s phrase “he who has a why to live for can put up with almost any how.”
Frankl’s life speaks to the validity of this statement. In the 1940s Frankl suffered through several years in Nazi concentration camps. He said that those who felt like they had a clear purpose in their life were the ones who were more likely to survive.
In your 20s you’re desperate for meaning. Everyone’s asking what you want to be when you grow up or what you’re going to do when you graduate. If you don’t have all those things figured out it can really send you spiraling into a miserable headspace.
Frankl wants you to find meaning but not necessarily the Meaning of Life, that grand purpose for your whole existence. Instead he thinks you should look for the meaning placed right in front of you in this specific moment in life.
I think that shift in thinking can be a relief, especially for young adults. It’s easy to feel like you’re just spending those years waiting around for real life to begin. You think things will really start happening when you’re out of college, with a career, or when you’re married. But what’s in front of you right now? You can find meaning and purpose in this season of life too.
From Man’s Search for Meaning (a book I read this year that legit changed my life)
“It did not really matter what we expected from life but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those being questioned by life—daily and hourly.”
What purpose can you find in life right now? What purpose can you fulfill in your church body? Where can you get plugged in? What ministry can you make an impact in? How can you serve and love the people in your life today? What is life asking of you? A young adult ministry can help 20somethings discover a meaningful “why” in the here and now.
Every relationship you have in your 20s is in desperate need of honesty if it’s going to be healthy. You need to learn to be honest in your relationship with yourself, with God, your parents, your friends, and the person you’re dating.
The apostle Paul uses the metaphor of a race to describe our life as a Christian. We’re to run the race well (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Imagine starting a marathon right after getting a splinter in the bottom of your foot. At first it might not hurt that bad. It stings a little but you can keep going. I’m sure after the third mile (this is speculation because I’ve never ran more than three miles in my life and I’m sure I’d explode if I tired) that pain from the splinter is going to be a lot worse. By mile ten I bet it’s insane how much it hurts. At the start it didn’t seem like that big of a deal but as the race continues it’ll affect you more and more.
One time I was invited to speak to college students about my experience in ministry and this was what I talked about. The morale of the story is DEAL WITH THE SPLINTER NOW. At the start of the race. It might not feel that bad but if you don’t address it, it’ll get so much worse. This is true for jealousy, anger, porn addiction, unforgiveness, insecurities, infidelity, abusive behavior, or mental health issues. And you can’t deal with the splinter unless you’re willing to admit that it’s there.
Honesty can be terrifying.
A young adult ministry can encourage and challenge you to bravely pursue honesty in relationships, as well as give you a safe place to practice and learn.
In your 20s you’re transitioning out of a life where you’ve been told by a teacher what you’ll learn, read, research, memorize, and practice. That’s all you’ve known up until this point and now you’re free to decide those things for yourself. What are you going to do?
Matt Chandler used to call immature men “boys who can shave.” The danger in this transition is that while the rest of your life is changing around you, emotionally and spiritually you can stay who you were as senior in high school.
I believe a young adult ministry needs to emphasize the importance of growth. Growth in knowledge, maturity, talents, passion, and especially growth in your relationship with God. It can help create a culture that celebrates reading, questioning, and reflecting on your life. Honesty will help you recognize your need for growth but you also have to actually set out to do it.
Every day you take a step in the right direction is a day worth celebrating.
Earlier this year I put out a survey to young adult pastors with just one question: What’s the most difficult part of your ministry?" The number one answer by far was: “Young adults are flakes.”
I can see how that would be the most frustrating thing in the world. You plan an event, people commit to being there, and a couple days (or even hours) before it’s supposed to happen, people start DROPPING LIKE FLIES. A bunch of people said “I’ll totally be there! That sounds awesome!” but then only a few actually come out.
That really sucks.
But I think it also proves why a young adult ministry is so important. Yes, they’re flakes, but they’re not just doing that to the church, they’re doing that to everybody. They’re flaking on each other too. Could you imagine if everybody in your life was that unreliable? A young adult ministry can make such a huge impact by being the only consistent voice in someone’s life.
There is a loneliness epidemic in our culture and during this transitional period in your 20s it’s so important to step into the rest of your life with the knowledge of what a real friendship looks like and how to have one. It’s so much easier to strive for purpose, honesty, and growth when surrounded by friends.
When you focus on equipping young adults for their transitional season, I think your less likely to run into the problem of building a ministry that isolates 20somethings from the rest of the church. Eventually they’ll be on the other side of their big transition. You’re giving them everything they need to outgrow your ministry and realize “oh I don’t need this anymore.” That’s the goal.
I follow a Twitter account called Year Progress that only tweets updates on what percentage of the year we’ve completed.
I thought it would be a fun reminder of much time we have left in 2018. Turns out the dumb thing only freaks me out and sends me into a ridiculous panic.
It’s 2018. I graduated high school 10 years ago. I started doing comedy 10 years ago. I graduated from college 6 years ago. Comedy became my full time job 5 years ago. Next year is 2019. Then it’s 2020. I’m almost 29 which means I’m almost 30 which means I’m almost dead.
Everyone over 30 is reading this laughing while everyone under 25 is throwing up because of how old I am. Just a reminder to all you Over 30’s, you probably have a birthday coming up that freaks YOU out and it’s coming at you fast!
We can all get caught up in a panic about how time is slipping through our fingers. It marches on whether we want it to or not. This is only life we have and if we screw it up, there are no do-overs. No time machines (…yet?).
One of the most important things that happened to me this year was that I read Viktor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning. It’s an incredible book that legitimately changed my life.
As I look at where we’re at on the progress bar of 2018 I’m reminded of one of the most impactful passages in the book.
“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?
No, thank you,' he will think. 'Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.”
2018 is a little over 86% complete. That could easily fill me with dread. But I want to practice looking at that through the eyes of Frankl’s optimism.
I’m in love with this recent “secret” shared on PostSecret.
“Sometimes I pretend I’ve time traveled to the past and am re-living my life. Time with friends and family suddenly becomes a gift, a chance to be with them once more before they’re gone again.”
I have a feeling whoever wrote was inspired by the movie ABOUT TIME. The film is about a guy who discovers he can travel back in time to any moment in his life and change whatever he wants. By the end of the film he’s older, married, has two children, and is traveling back in time a whole lot less.
This is what he says in a closing monologue:
“The truth is, I now don't travel back at all, not even for a day. I just try to live everyday as if I have deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it... As if it was the full, final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”
It’s a really beautiful thought and it’s so close to a concept I just read about in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
Frankl, a psychologist who survived 5 years in Nazi concentration camp, puts it this way:
“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.”
There are several passages in this book I can confidently claim CHANGED MY FREAKING LIFE but this one is probably at the top of the list.
I’ve already found myself doing this little thought experiment before going to lunch with friends. “Ok. What if I’ve already had this lunch and I’m getting to do it again to fix all my mistakes. What mistakes would I make that need correcting? I probably would have spent too much time looking at my phone. I could be rude to the people working. I could be a terrible listener and miss opportunities to be more supportive. But not this time around!”
Time travel has always been a big deal for me. In college I went through a strange and awful depression where I got really obsessed with regrets and wished I could have a time machine to fix all my garbage mistakes.
It was not a healthy time for me.
I have a tattoo of the flux capacitor from Back to the Future (it’s what makes time travel possible) on my leg. I got it several years ago because I wanted to remind myself that I don’t ever get a do over. You’ve got to get it right the first time because that’s all you have.
But now I’ve got Frankl in my head telling me to live like a time travel and make my life better.