Means of Grace: Ministry with Young Adults
May 24, 2022
Outposts of Grace: Ministry with Young Adults - Episode No. 84
Jesse Enniss and Kim Ingram, podcast hosts, talk with Rev. Dr. Preston Davis, Minister to the University at High Point University about his DMin focus on Christian practice for addressing the increase in fear and anxiety in young adults. They talk about the role of mentors, churches, and parents in the lives of young people and how to help young adults belong. Preston shares knowledge, experience and wisdom from his research and interactions with students that are beneficial to all of us.
Show Notes - Episode 84
- Springtide Research is an excellent resource for thinking about the crossroads of young adult flourishing and spiritual formation.
- Generation Z Unfiltered: Facing Nine Hidden Challenges of the Most Anxious Population
- Confessions | Cokesbury by Augustine
- On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts
- Hayworth Chapel and Religious Life | Religious Life | High Point University
Preston’s recommended reading list:
- Love Does, Bob Goff.
- Letters to a Young Doubter, William Sloane Coffin
- Making Sense of the Bible, Adam Hamilton
- Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller
- Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning
- ABCs of Christian Faith, Will Willimon
- In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen
- Confessions, Saint Augustine. Or a modern reading of it, On the Road w Saint Augustine, James KA Smith
- Pastrix, Nadia Bolz-Webber
- Anything by Rachel Held Evans
- My Bright Abyss, Christian Wiman
- God and the Lynching Tree, James Cone (Black Liberation theology)
- Holy Envy, Barbara Brown T
- aylor (interfaith focus)
More about Preston Davis and the ministry at HPU: Minister to the University | Religious Life | High Point UniversityDuke: DMin Degree (duke.edu) Candler @ Emory: Doctor of Ministry (DMin) | Candler School of Theology | Emory University | Atlanta, GA Hood: Doctor of Ministry (DMIN) : Hood Theological Seminary Hood Theological Seminary (hoodseminary.edu)
MOG084 - Transcript
Fri, 6/10 8:33PM • 34:39
Rev. Kim Ingram, Rev. Dr. Preston Davis, Jesse Innes
Welcome to Means Of Grace, a podcast produced by the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Towards the end of Moses’ ministry, we get a glimpse of his emphasis on succession. In Deuteronomy, he stresses the act of passing on the teaching from generation to generation. He also creates a successor in Joshua, who would lead the people into the promised land. Christ gives us a discipleship model that encourages us to meet people where they are and offer them a place of belonging. In this episode of the Means Of Grace podcast, Dr. Davis gives us insight and understanding from his research into ways that we can create space for the next generation to flourish. So without further ado, here is our conversation with Dr. Preston Davis.
Welcome to the Means Of Grace Podcast. I'm Jessie Innes, the Director of Communications for the Leadership Development Team.
Kim Ingram 01:30
And I'm Kim Ingram, the Director of Ministerial Services in Western North Carolina.
And today, our guest is Rev. Preston Davis, who is the minister to High Point University and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church in the Western North Carolina Conference. Hi, Preston.
Reverend Preston Davis
Good to be here.
So Preston, tell us a bit about your ministry at High Point.
Reverend Preston Davis 01:50
I’m glad to! I’ve been ministering to the university here at HP for almost a decade now. I'm finishing up my ninth year. Kim, I’ve been here a while. It's been some time since you nurtured me as a young pup into the Western North Carolina Conference. It was really fortunate to be at High Point University. When
I got to start here, I was way too young and way too unqualified for the position. But they saw something in me, trusted me, and I’m grateful to God. And again, for bringing me on board here and have gotten to fail and fail better here and to nurture young adults. And this year, we actually just had a chapel service two weeks ago, where we blessed six students who are going off to divinity school. And those are markers that you go, hopefully we're doing something right. Everyone's living into their calling, their vocation. But others want to go into this kind of work, the strange and wonderful calling that is ordained ministry.
Kim Ingram 02:36
Wow, that is so exciting, Preston. I hope that you also nurtured some of them for the United Methodist Church. We'll have to talk a little bit more about that. So you recently became Rev. Dr. Preston Davis. And this is the first conversation that we're having as part of a series where we're having conversations with some of our clergy who have recently gotten DMin degrees or Doctor of Ministry degrees, and wanting to learn a little bit more about what you discovered in your research and in your study, so that we might be enriched and learn also from that, so that our listeners are clear. Can you tell us about the DMin and kind of how you decided to pursue that particular degree.
Reverend Preston Davis 03:18
So glad that I've done, that I've had the experience. There's a little bit of impostor syndrome when you're on a college campus to get a DMin. I'm surrounded by PhDs. And so almost I fidget a little bit when people say “Rev. Dr.”, like it's not like other doctors have, or my children. They're like, “So you're a doctor now? Can you heal me?” Like, it's a little different. But I think the reason I started out, had been an ordained ministry, seven or eight years at that time, and actually closer to a decade by that time, and it felt like a lot of my ministry and who I was, as a preacher particular started to feel like posturing, started to feel like I was leaning into my charisma or charm rather than God's Spirit, and really felt like I needed to come into a community of others who were going to help route me back in God, in more sustainable ways. My three on the Enneagram, so I want to perform well, but like that won't keep you close to Jesus. Right? I needed something. I needed a group of people who can help me do that better. And, you know, I'm one of the I feel like a little bit of the outsider in our Methodist Conference, because while I was born here and grew up in the Methodist Church, Mount Sinai United Methodist, and Davidson United Methodist, under with James Howell and Jody Seymour, just incredible mentors and guides, I went to Union Theological Seminary in New York City for my masters. And so coming back to the Conference, there were all these Duke grads and Candler grads. And so I had to enter into that conversation. So, to go to Duke for my DMin, which I'm really grateful, they accepted me and trained me, feels like now I'm part of the club. And I'm grateful for that. So the reason it's what I do other than just my own spiritual nourishment, and which I needed is that I was looking at some of those external factors to help me grow some of us, some people were really good just having that internal engine to move to obtain the maximum they need to study. I'm not one of those people and deadlines are good for me. And deadlines helped me grow. And so being a part of a community that was going through gateways of learning, and here's your next step, here's your next step. That was really helpful for me. And especially Jessie, you might appreciate this as someone with two kids. Like I needed somebody to help me set some guidelines, like I was pretty tired. A lot of the times I couldn't sit like, what's my next kind of thing for maturation? And so having some others helped me along the way was really helpful.
Kim Ingram 05:27
Well, it sounds like it was a really good fit. I know we have a number of clergy that are pursuing a DMin at Duke, even as we speak. And I wonder, I have not done one. So my understanding of a DMin is that you do some coursework. And you also choose a topic of some sort which interests you, in which you do a deep dive. And that's really the focus of our conversation today. So I wonder if you could tell us sort of what became your focus? And how did you decide that was something you wanted to learn more about?
Preston Davis 05:57
Even going into it, I already knew what I wanted to go into, which was, what is the diagnosis? And what is the prescription for this rise in anxiety, depression for young adults today? Which everyone has some sort of insight into today. This major claim in the Gospel of “perfect love casts out fear” and the yawning gap between the two. So what are the resources? What is the mission of the Body of Christ that is going to help people move from these places of deep anxiety and fear, to practice a kind of cruciform love that cast that out? Going into the program already knew I wanted to look more deeply into the causes of fear and anxiety in young adults. And what are some of the untapped places that that we've got that we've already been shaped by as people who follow Jesus? Not for easy answers, but for discipleship, kind of long, sustainable answers that we can grow together.
So can you tell us what have you found to be some of those causes of fear and anxiety that young people are experiencing?
Preston Davis 06:59
This is a huge question. And everyone's got a big answer, from my experience, as a pastor to 18 to 25 year olds, on a college campus. And just from some of the research, we can go from big things to forms of isolation today, a variety of factors. I could focus on three that hit close to home for a college student, and two are probably well known one, probably less so. And the first thing people would point to is social media, and they're not wrong. There's something about the experience of living online lives that creates a divided self, because the online world is for whatever reason, it pulls out our lesser selves. It's not the better, better angels of our nature. It's steeped in a kind of culture of envy, like why do you take a video when you're at a concert? You're not going to watch the video. No one else is going to watch that video, it's you trying to create a kind of image of yourself. And so the online world becomes a place of posturing and a place of and when I say “divided self” is that you're projecting a kind of self where your real self is moving in a different direction. And so if you feel a tearing, or kind of depression or sadness on your inside, because you're living a divided life, and it happens to us again, and again, and unfortunately, young adults, and even older adults, but young adults, in particular get caught in this, and they don't understand why they feel lost within those kinds of worlds. There's tons of research on this. It's just true. And so even like, small things like time limited settings on phones are really helpful. Like 15 minutes on social media day is really helpful. There's huge research on it now, and this is the second one on point two used to just be a correlation between this rise in anxiety and, and fear. And I'm using those terms interchangeably, because they really can be used interchangeably. Some people would probably differentiate between what anxiety is, and fear is, that anxiety is just a manifestation of a kind of deep fear that's happening. And there's scientific research on this as well. We would say there's correlation between a lack of religiosity of spirituality, and the rise of fear and anxiety. It's becoming more understood now that it's not a correlation. It's causal, that people don't have a vocabulary of the sacred or the transcendent, leads to more isolation, more sense that you have to make more meaning for yourself, in and of yourself. The world, unfortunately, becomes this kind of, as Charles Taylor would say, this “buffered self”, everything happens in and of yourself. And that's just too much for any one individual to bear. And so the lack of vocabulary or understanding for what is transcendent, or we would call “God” or “God in Christ”, it really means that you're the only thing that makes meaning of the world. It's just too much for any person to bear. When I hear people say to a kid now they’ll say something like, “You be you.” I'm like, that's the worst advice ever. Like you know, you need other people to tell you who you are. Yes, it's great for “You Be You”, don't let anyone manipulate you like yeah, be your, be who you're called to be. But at its end, it's terrible. Because it means that you only belong to yourself. And it's just a lie. Now we belong to one another and God or as Augustine would say, our hearts or our hearts are restless to the rest in God. That's true. We're theological cells, we're spiritual selves. As Dr. Dan said, we are not humans having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. A love that turns it on its head, that we're deeper than we think we are, we're actually connected to a love that goes before us, behind us and ahead of us. And we got to pay attention to that. And if we don't, if we feel lost, it's because we haven't paid attention to that. Well, it's not as simple as just like “pray away the depression” or “pray away the anxiety”. That would be the cliche answer, but it's like, no, you're made for something more than just yourself. Pay attention to that. The last one that I would point to, is probably less appreciated, but it's becoming more appreciated is the role of mentors, parents, teachers, those who are guiding young adults, we put tons of blame on young adults around their fear and anxiety, and it's misplaced. Principally, it's not them who are fearful and anxious. It's the adults in their lives who are fearful and anxious. For example, we have this really popular term now, “lawnmower parents” or “helicopter parents”. Helicopter Parents: Someone who is a helicopter parent, someone who hovers around the kid. Lawnmower Parents: someone who mows down, or bulldozer parents, mows down the obstacles in front of them. What are those images and metaphors getting at? They're getting at a guardian or figure in a kid's life or a young adult's life that says, “Hey, it's really scary out there. And it's really hard. And I don't think you can do it.” It saying like “The world's a really hard place. But instead of you finding your way through it, and failing and failing better, or stumbling through those things, I don't think you can do it. So I'm gonna do it for you.” What does that do to the inner life of a young adult? It tells them, “It's a scary place, and I can't manage this place.” What does it do for their sense of who they are, when they're when those things are torn down or mowed for them? They don't develop anything, of identity of who they are. And so all these kind of factors, these major factors, these three and other macro factors, what they do is they end up isolating young adults. Like we wonder why we're the lonely, that they're the loneliest generation ever. These factors play into making them lonelier and lonelier. I'm going to keep going here, because I think this is really important, and the parable that's been most meaningful to me, for this that Jesus tells, and it's so small, but it's so huge. What Jesus is up to, for bringing the kingdom of God on this earth is he's indicted. And this is in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. He's indicted, or accused by the scribes for casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub, in the name of the enemy, in the name of evil itself. And it's like, well, that's stupid. Why would Satan cast out Satan? I'm not going to do that. And then he goes on to tell a story about how you can't plunder the strong man's house, without first breaking into it. And binding the strong man. Something about this parable over the last three years and
over time that I've been in my DMin has haunted me because I think it speaks to the reality of young adults. They're living in a house of like a strong man. And if you think that in terms of what Jesus is thinking about it, he's thinking about a strong man who would, someone who would have a house on lockdown that was before the pandemic, but like a house on lockdown that's like, ruled by fear. It's ruled by, you're trapped here, and you can't find your way out. And you need somebody to break into that house, to let you out. And I find that again, and again, that's what Jesus is up to, he’s breaking into this world, to liberate us from and save us from ourselves, and the traps we set for ourselves. Even what we've done today, the fear and anxiety which we've set for young adults. I can go into more of that metaphor in that parable in ministry of Jesus, but it on its on its face, like it's the gift of Easter really what it is like people, Christians would often say like the miracle of Easter is that Jesus is raised from the dead, and therefore we get to live with our loved ones when we die. That's a Christian truth. But it's not the Easter truth. The Easter truth is that Jesus keeps breaking into this world into locked rooms that are locked up lives and anxious lives and giving life to people who didn't think they had or giving love to people who thought they were unlovable. That's the Easter truth. And I think Jesus is still up to that. I think God is still up to that in this world today. And I'm fortunate enough for some young adults to get to see that happen again. And again.
Kim Ingram 14:07
I really appreciate that. You've really set the context for understanding not only the circumstances and nature of young adults, but also something about the relationships others of us might have with them, including I'm a parent of two young adults, so including parents and churches, neighbors, others who might be a part of that community that you indicate that is so important for the shaping of young adults. And I wonder if you could talk to us a little bit about as you've seen this, from your perspective, even from the campus ministry and how you might connect with local churches or from the students perspective of how they might connect with their home church or what is it that a community of faith or community a faithful people could do to connect with, support. and love these young adults that you're talking about?
Preston Davis 15:01
The mentality would be important first and we talk about the practice. So like some really good why, how, and what? That the Why would be really important. Why do you want to connect with young adults? Is it so you can feel better about the church that you've got? Like I think about sometimes when we think about Stewardship Sunday or getting new members in churches like please so they can take the financial burden off me. That's why we need more people giving offering. Jeez, that's gonna be felt before it's extreme. Like if that's if that's our mentality going into it, those new folks coming in will feel that, they will feel that we're asking them to take our place. The mentality has to be there first. Why do you want young adults in your church? I would hope that it would be something that kind of cruciform love that we want to share life with them that we've experienced in Jesus. What's that great quote about evangelism? It's one beggar showing another beggar where a piece of bread is. It's like, this might feed you, this might nourish you, it's nourished me, and here's how it's nourishment. The reason why we want to be with young folks is really important. There's a practical thing I can remember when I was a kid at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Cornelius when I was growing up, and, gosh, It troubles me, I can't remember his name. But we were really active in that church, really the kind of family that was there Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and we’d go for Wednesday night dinners. And I can
remember they had a program that I can look back on now. And it was, there were people that were either retirees in that church, or whose kids that had moved out, or maybe the second half of life. And they became mentors in the church. And I can remember this gentleman multiple times, his job was to pick me like he came and picked me up. And he and I just spent the day together. Like that might even seem like it's weird now. But what did it tell like 12 year old Preston? It said, it tells me now in my later 30s, like, he valued me. Like he just wanted to be with me, and showed me that like he was in my life. I think about how weird that was and how wonderful it was, like he just took me to the Best Buy and like we played video games. And he gave me his number and said, “If you ever need anything call me.” Here's the real thing. I think it's important for young adults today. And those of us who mentor and parent young adults today, fortunately, and unfortunate for those of us who are in higher education, we know that the price tag for education is too high. We know that. What am I getting at here? Is that what happens with education too often is it it gets reduced to return on investment. Has this come back to church? And has this come back to young adults? Has it come back to those of us who mentor young adults? What happens because we're emotional creatures before we're intellectual creatures, is that we feel when we become projects more than people. A kid understands emotionally, when he does become a project to his parents more than a person, rather than a child of God. They can feel it, they can feel it in the conversation that happens at the dinner table. They can feel it when it's under the surface. When the child becomes a project rather than a person made in the image of God. And we can feel that happen. Can the church be a place that is returning people to themselves? Well, we're not projects for return on investment. This is why the church would be important for our education, it's well worth going to a school that has a Methodist background, a theological background, say like, this is part of developing people. We're not here to return people for investment and President Cobain and Apple University uses the language of “return on life”. That's great. Like we're returning people to life and life abundance. So churches, these places have why do we want young adults involved? Well, we want to, we want to share bread with them the bread of life. We want to show Jesus to them in ways that may not have been seen before. We're not there to turn them into projects. We're there to help them experience God's love, in ways that the online world may not do that. We got to do it sometimes. And we're doing it right now. But do it in ways they're gonna be life giving for them and bring them into life.
So Preston, how are young adults responding to church right now?
Preston Davis 19:04
Really depends upon the narrative they have about what church is. You'll have those who've gotten a healthy church experience. And those who haven't. I was talking to a young woman yesterday who's in the chapel choir, who said I haven't done church in a long time because of what I experienced. But this has been healing. Okay, that's good enough right now. Well, okay, we're doing something right there. At the same time, a couple weeks ago, I went and talked to a group of staff members, coaching them on some of the stuff that we're talking about right now, around returning dignity to these kids, they may often feel diminished, like they're not full persons, and then asking them, “Hey, I need y’all’s help. Like, how do you, help help me get them in the chapel on Wednesday at 5:30?” And they went “Preston, we're so sorry. They're not going to come into that place.” Now I went “Okay, fine. Tell me more.” And it's, it's all the baggage, it is all the baggage for a multitude of reasons. Maybe the church building is their only experience, maybe a funeral. And so it's triggering in that way, it brings up the memories of
the loss of a loved one. And maybe it's even more problematic in that the Barna Group did that study years ago that said the three characterizations that non-Christians had of Christians and therefore spaces that Christians, the main three characterizations were hypocritical, judgmental, and anti-gay. I don't care where you stand on the LGBTQIA illusion that there's the three things that determine the church then we're done for. And it's not what the body of Christ is. But that would be the perception of what that place would hold for them. So they're not going to come in this place. But what I see where students who don't have a “God vocabulary”, for whatever reason, when they do come to our worship gatherings that we lead, is something surprising and wonderful for them. And this is my favorite, I don't have to press hard on it. But we get to, they get to experience it. And this happens every week. This happens. I'm serious, every week on a cut on our college campus, is that some point after the service, I'll talk to someone who is spiritual, but not religious, or has never had any church experience. And they'll say something like, “I don't believe any of this stuff. But why did something move in me?” There's a great quote from Annie Dillard. She says “I was a bell my whole life and did not know it until someone lifted me and struck me.” It was like like that same thing? Why is there a ringing in me when I'm in this place? And part of this thing, like you were made to be wrong, like you were made to be struck. And so letting God do God's work, by being faithful to scripture, being faithful to who Jesus is and letting Him tell them who they are. That's the good stuff. And so the mentality of how you approach the world is really important. What are you trying to do as you're, as you're approaching them, and you want them to be a part of this mission of making disciples and in transforming the world, not permitted manipulative purposes. So the mentality and how you do it, are really important.
So you spoke about many who are spiritual but not religious. If they aren't participating in church or chapel at this school, where do they find their spirituality? Where are they currently finding that?
Preston Davis 22:13
Good question. That's going to be my question now for every group I get to talk to. One, they're going to find it in the arts, or whether they know the arts or not, they're going to find it in their music, music is meant to mirror our lives. And so it has a sacred quality to it. They're going to find it in music and movies, and in art. On a college campus, they're going to find a multitude of what they're studying. I mean, all truth is God's truth. So whatever they're studying, if it's leading into a deeper form of life, there is some of God there, they're gonna find it. I'm interested in how we're part of those, the life of those who have no “God vocabulary”, or have no experience liturgical lives that many of us have been raised in. And we know the answer for this, we just don't like it. And it's all in the difference between convergent and divergent culture, and we're in divergent culture, which is that people have less common life together. And so the answer is to be in the divergent places. But this was always Jesus' mission anyway. He was always in the moving out of places where people couldn't be part of the convergent culture. So it should be in our DNA. Just gotta pay attention to him a little bit more there. But it means that we live probably, that we're doing more things off hours, at least practically speaking. A couple of weeks ago, the group at school for LGBTQIA inclusion pride here at High Point University, they asked me to come speak to them. And I was so grateful. Because every year I gotta build this trust again, and be with people to talk like to share a way of maybe a more inclusive way of reading scripture, or a vision for the church that was more inclusive, where they’ve probably been harmed. I got to the end of the conversation, I was able to say things like, “I bet half of y'all really didn't want me to be
here.” And they all laughed. “Yeah, we didn't know what you're gonna say.” I had to go to them. They weren't going to come to me, and had to say, and this is let me come back. Let me come back to the parable of binding the strong man. He says you can't plunder a strong man's house until you first broken in and you bound it. He says you can't plunder it. Well, who's the plunder? What's the plunder? It's, it's us. It's Kim. It's Jesse. It's those kids, they’re treasure and they don't know it. And it's not that they’re treasure because they're entitled to it. It's they’re treasure because they’re God. And so the work is to continue to show them that they belong to God. And they have their value because of who God is in their life. That is just going to require us to continue to have creative solutions to being church, outside the church. We've known this answer for a long time. It's a matter of practice. Or if you want to get deeply theological about it. It's like what Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about its religion was Christianity. It's moving into the world where life happens, and saying that that's where Jesus already is. So we're going there. It's immersion into life. Evangelical organizations have been great about this for ages. Setting up things like FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) go into place where young adults already have life and accompanying and being alongside them. There's no reason The United Methodist Church can't do it, too. It's been in this place as this why, like, things that we're already doing, and we can do better are going to be really helpful for young adults, like camping ministries, like some people might roll their eyes in that well, that's like, that's helping young people do hard things. And going on a journey together. And being out in God's world together, like that's good stuff. Like, do more, we can do more of that. One of our major programs that we've developed over the last few years is our pilgrimage program. And that was influenced by Craig Coker, who's United Methodist, in our, in our conference, as a chaplain at University of Richmond. These have been invaluable, like we've gotten donors behind it. And so we're helping students do trips that they could have otherwise not done. Like we did the Camino de Santiago, which is a walk across northern Spain, we had two students who had never been on a plane before. And the trips are great, and they may sound impractical to like a local church, like we're not gonna do that. It's not about where you go, it's about how you do it. And because we're all lonely, and we need retraining and belonging, and the body of Christ is constantly retraining us how to belong to one another. It's a Mother Teresa, quote, “If we have no peace, it's that we forgotten we belong to one another.” And so the body of Christ is constantly moving outside of itself, to help people belong to one another, to help give them that peace, and practicing life together, and it will get messy, but that's the good stuff like you get to lean into those things. I'm not just interested in where those young adults are finding their “God vocabulary”, but like, Yeah, So where will the church be a part of those places for those people too?
Kim Ingram 26:53
Preston, is there something unique that you've learned about fear and anxiety in young adults?
Preston Davis 26:59
Yes, I think when we first address fear and anxiety in adults, it's because we don't like to see people hurt, like, we want to make it go away. And that's good that we want to help people. What I think, theologically is the fear and anxiety in adults, if we were to listen, if we were to help them listen to their fear and anxiety, it actually might be a gift. And here's what I mean by that. Someone else, I can't understand it. But said it better means that “fear is the shadow side of love.” And so if you get young adults to pay attention to why they're afraid, and where the anxiety is coming from, they'll see what they love. And if they can see what they love, they can decide whether that's worthy of their love. This is
what I dissertation is a lot about Augustine, and because he's really helpful at helping people order their loves. And if we have if our lives are defined by anxiety and loneliness, it's probably because we have some pretty disordered love. And so most of our job as chaplains is to meet with young adults and helping them see what they really love, and is it worthy of their life. And so you're not trying to make the fear go away. You're, you're trying to help them pay attention to what they're afraid of. And then that can lead them into a better way of being in the world.
So Preston, tell us a little bit more about what churches can learn from your experience in a chaplain office.
Preston Davis 28:21
A mentor of mine in chaplaincy once said, like all chaplains is is throwing stuff on the wall and seeing what sticks. It's a little more scientific and literal methodical than that. But there's some truth in that, that we try to be experimental and to see what from tradition. And scripture is going to help us meet young adults where they are that they find God in their life to see that God is already active in their life, that God has already searched them and then what church might be able to the local church, right we learn from what chaplaincy officers are doing all the time, pretty early with Christian spiritual formation is that I often think of our place on a college campus as an outpost of grace. And that doesn't mean that academia is evil or problematic. What it means is sometimes we think education on its own is going to be what makes us into who we're supposed to be. But what we know is that education without deep moral inquiry or spiritual inquiry just becomes another resource for self protection and violence. To get smart, and not have had confession means that you get really good at arming yourself or as Dr. King said, “we live in a time of guided missiles and misguided nets.” Like what is it to become someone who can unravel the the the atom and you just create a bomb out of it? No, like, if you're gonna get smart, get smart in the direction of wisdom and, and a deeper way of being in the world. So I think of an outpost of grace as a place that's constantly bringing Jesus into the conversation, that kind of beatitudes mentality of who has value, who is valued, what makes for value in the world, and what makes for what we really love. And so the local church will constantly be placed just like a chapel office, it's failing and failing better. And we'll have to experiment and experiment in new ways. But it's going to be a place that says, “Hey, in and of yourself, you're not going to have the kingdom of God dawn here, or like, you're not going to have the perfect peace that you're seeking, it's gonna have to be through the help from God's very self in your life, you're gonna have to walk with a limp, and you're gonna have to lean on something bigger than yourself.” So I would hope for a kind of a world that's continually finding itself isolated, anxious, because of what we value. The church is saying, “Hey, let's reorder our values and what we love in the order of Jesus.” And becomes a, an outpost of grace in the world that's starting to feel lonelier, and more like a desert. And so this place that, it's providing nourishment, when we are so desperately hungry for something better.
So do you have any resources that could be helpful for someone who wants to learn more about connecting with young people, and maybe even addressing that fear and anxiety?
Preston Davis 31:00
There's lots of really good sociological books on this. IGEN was probably most well known. There's a book out a couple years ago that talks about relationships and mentors really well called “Generation Z, Unfiltered”, I found that helpful. I would come back to some of the classics like we have “Confessions” by St. Augustine. It may sound terribly outdated, but man that like, if you start like you put that in the young adults hands, and who's interested in someone who's interested reading and they'll go, “Oh, my gosh, that's not just him. That's me.” He's a brilliant at looking inside oneself and finding things that are God shaped or not. Books that might go really well. Alongside that might be something like James K. Smith's “On the road with St. Augustine”, that might be good for mentors, youth, pastors, pastors in general. And I'll shamelessly say, yeah, check out HPU chapel on all the stuff that we do here. Hopefully, some of the stuff that we're doing here is helpful.
Kim Ingram 31:54
We really appreciate, Preston, that you offer yourself as a resource, and that you've given us some of these others that we can put in the show notes for people to access and learn more about. It has just been an enlightening conversation today, and we appreciate you taking the time to really help us to dig deeper, as communities of faith, as leaders in the church, and in the United Methodist Church. I think that many of us do have a real heart for young adults with integrity and authenticity, like you said, “What is the why?” And that is a really important place to start. And then, “What does it look like to be that community for them?” You said, “What is the role of community and making meaning we belong to one another. And so how can we be part of that for them in ways that we're all kind of on the journey together?” We're not saving them. We're not mowing the grass for them. We're not hovering over them. I'd heard of the helicopter, but I wasn't familiar with the lawn mower concept. But what does it mean to walk alongside and to to be faithful Christians and adults together? So I think you've given us a lot of wisdom and insight, but also left us in a place to be creative and intentional.
Well, again, thank you, Preston. I should say the Rev. Dr. Preston Davis for joining us today and for, like Kim said, giving us such great insight and also guiding us a little bit better to the future of meeting with young adults and helping them to see that they are treasured. So we want to thank you so much for joining us.
Preston Davis 33:29
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
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