Chuck Bomar, “Worlds Apart: Understanding the Mindset and Values of 18-25 Year Olds”. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 2011. 167 pages. WAS
In his informative book, Worlds Apart, Chuck helps us recognize the gap that exists between the world of the 18-25 year old and helps bridge the gap in some real, tangible and practical ways. Throughout the book, Bomar comes alongside the reader in their understanding of this age group and models for them what it would look like to reach out to college-age students that live in the same home, next-door or at least go to the same church. An easy read that leaves you where it starts; relationships. Over and over Bomar points to the value of relationships and gives those that are socially inept a guide to wake up to the social cues of the college-age people. Loved the book. Read it in one sitting from Croatia to Kosovo on my back from Mission-Net in Germany. A great beginners reference point for anyone interested in connecting with this demographic.
I had to taper my expectations after a few chapters. I came to the realization (I should have read the back cover more carefully) that there is little to no interaction with biblical texts on how to deal with college students but rather a social interchange of the world of the 18-25 year olds and all their idiosyncrasies specifically highlighting the value of listening and building relationships.
He covers his basis in writing to the emotionally strained parent dealing with their child, the college leader trying to guide their student in holiness and love, or the eager book reader who wants to expand their knowledge of the mind of the 18-25 year old. In the opening chapter Bomar gives an incredible explanation for the development of this age group and the obvious insight of technology in this process saying, “ perhaps the biggest impact of growing up in a world where you always have information at your fingertips is that the world seems much smaller for younger generations. This has placed a huge role in their desire and interest to be involved in world affairs an social justice world wide.” After telling many comical stories of the generational gap of those born around or before 1985 he went on to tell the history of higher education which he believes to be the major influencer in this downward spiral.
The ancient expectation of growing up, going to school, getting a job, getting married, having kids and growing old are becoming a lot less defined and the line where school and vocation occur are being blurred. Higher education is Bomar’s major antagonist in this story. It has provided ambiguity in understanding when the rite of passage occurs to adulthood, created higher financial dependence upon their parents, and has caused the single life to be prolonged. College education has become a necessity and the search for identity was extended.
One of my favorite chapters was on a detailed profile representing many college-age people. This is where Bomar comes alive. He has a wealth of college ministry experience ranging from every coffee appointment, every discussion with a parent, and every unplanned conversation after community group or bible study. Parent testimonies and personal testimonies come to life and Bomar encourages us to be patient with these college-age people as he sheds light into the identity process. He compares 5 cycles that he sees with the 8 that were laid out by Erik Erikson. Bomars five were:
The Substitute: becoming what others demand
The Floater: waiting to see what happens
The Explorer: Trying on different hats
The Tentmaker: Finding a Place in Society
The Theologian: Being Who I am Made to Be
Regarding the Theologian, this is the one place that I can remember where Bomar takes us to the bible and shows us how these college-age people are wrestling with identity. He believes that until they find it in Christ they are on a path of investigation, aimless floating, and experimental test-runs to find what fits best. Here is where we fit into the picture.
In chapter 8 Bomar gives step by step instructions on how important relationships are and how to engage in healthy ones while dialoguing with college-age people about convictions, philosophical ideas, religion, and the sciences. In chapter 5 Bomar gives four ways to help practically balance relationships with college-age people that I believe are all self-explanatory. He assumes that you have mastered the art of reflecting on your youth, becoming humble in listening, becoming a learner, and rejecting the pressure to give your opinion immediately. Now, in chapter 8, he reflects on parental testimonies and speaks directly to parents and gives 4 more critical, concrete ideas on how to foster healthy, open dialogues with their college-age students.
- Make sure kids know that their relationship isn’t based or affirmed on what they say they believe. This has allowed their children the freedom to be honest, which parents appreciate.
- Seek to have discussions rather than teacher-pupil or parent-to-child conversations. They assume the posture of a friend and in doing so engage with questions rather than providing answers or practical advice.
- Ask why questions such as, “why are you asking?” or “what are you processing through that brings this up?” Open questions provide an atmosphere where kids can call and have a discussion that will help them think through things themselves.
- Realize you cannot make children believe anything, so don’t try. Instead, these parents have sought to help their children think though things themselves. When they provided answers, they tried to express them as their own personal convictions. This let the children know what they thought, but gave the children freedom to come to their own conclusions and share them with their parents. The children understood that just because their parents aren’t condemning unbiblical thoughts doesn’t mean they are condoning them.
Chapter 9 and 10 are dedicated to the evolution and role of relationships and an abrupt end after discussing the idealism and the prospect for inter-generational relationships. Then the main body of the book ends. He truly ends his book after an excursus written 1) to church leaders and 2) to parents. He gives college leaders a brief look back at a few of the chapters to remind them of the pivitol and influential role they play in the life of these collge-age peoples (and to promote some of his other material). And to parents. He gives one last charge of encouragement in this journey. “Be a friend. Ask questions. Listen. Back off on your involvement, but never stop the love”.
Highly recommend this book for an overview on the college-age people and as a beginners guide into college ministry because of its heavy, constant dosage of the value of relationships. It would also be very helpful for the helicopter parent (as Bomar politely referred to them) in understanding more about their child.
If you are looking for a book on college ministry play by play then this is not the book for you. If you are looking to find practical steps in understand how relationships work and specifically relationships with 18-25 year olds get this book today!