Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Abbie Smith Interview: The Slow Fade

Abbie Smith has been a good friend of CPYU over the years. She has spoken at college transition seminars with Derek, and her first book Can You Keep Your Faith in College? continues to be one of CPYU's bestselling resources. Abbie's latest book The Slow Fade, cowritten with Reggie Joiner and Chuck Bomar, seeks to help churches be more attentive and intentional with young adults. What follows is a recent interview with Abbie about her own story and why she is passionate about helping God's people mentor twentysomethings:

CPYU: In the beginning of the book you write that you are “experiencing the fade.” Tells us a little bit about what you mean by “the fade,” and how it connects to your story?

AS: “The fade” I’m referring to is that of 18-25 year olds from the Church. High-school seniors raised in the faith tend to hit college and dismiss belief systems for various other more appealing and inviting options. And we as their Body have yet to do anything terribly active to explore, understand and ultimately, move toward this fade’s halt. Instead of seeking-out this age-stage as a viable asset to our whole, we tend to focus our energies on more seemingly “willing” assets in our midst (not the assumedly rebellious, non-committal/conforming/tithing type, like the college-aged). Being a twentysomething myself, I’ve felt and watched the shrapnel of this fade far too often, and can’t in good conscious allow it a lenient, or passive, response. So I guess “The Slow Fade” is a piece of my story’s response.

CPYU: The book’s main strategy to keep twentysomethings connected to the church is to “recruit a new breed of mentors to invest time in those who are college-aged.” How did you arrive at that conclusion?

AS: The book is tri-authored, alongside Reggie Joiner and Chuck Bomar. After witnessing frustrated personal and church-wide conclusions in our respective circles, realizations about programmatic approaches, or college-aged individuals wanting more than entertainment, the simple task of older believers opening their lives to the journey of younger believers stood-out as the most apparent transformer (particularly important for this age-stage, for reasons explained in the book). Furthermore, in this relationship the individual is intentionally transitioned from adolescence to adulthood, discovering a purpose, belonging, and thus reason to remain participatory in his/her faith community.

CPYU: Part of your story you relay in the book is that it “took you about a week in the following-Jesus journey to realize college students lacked a voice in the church.” Why do you think that is? What are a few simple things churches can do to give college students a voice at church?

AS: Whether considering typical church budget allocations, demographics of attendance, or philosophies of ministry, rarely will you find a church who is taking ample consideration of the 18-25 year old voice. Reggie, Chuck and I believe this voice is not only of Biblical integrity to include, but has potentials of passion and creativity that are our loss to exclude. A great first step would be noticing college-age attendees at your church and offering to take one out for coffee, or a meal, simply with a goal of letting them speak—listening to their story. And for those who are intimidated by such a thought, we’ve written a series of “Conversation Guides” for ideas on how to navigate and further understand this age-stage. See for more on this.

CPYU: Many of our readers are youth workers. What advice would you give them to help prevent the slow fade?

AS: I’d give encouragement before I’d give advice. Namely, that what they’re doing in choosing to relationally invest in teens is absolutely incomparable. Whether they ever see fruits of transformation or salvation, the steadfast work of modeling love to this vulnerable age-stage is an investment with capacities toward not just one life, but the lives of future families and generations. My advice, then, would be to cling closely to God's love and belief in who they are and what they're doing. Such a task (discipleship of youth) is one that will rarely come easily, and never without resistance, for such a task is denting the markings of eternity. Finally, I would tell them they are so very appreciated.

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