by Cassie Schutzer, director of the Young Adult Initiative
When I moved to Indiana in June, my closest friends from home sent me off with a bundle of letters with instructions for when to open each one.
Open when…you’re finished unpacking.
Open when…you are lonely.
Open when…you make a new friend.
And that was only a few of them.
When I opened this gift – the best gift I had ever received – I was overwhelmed with gratitude because it was more than just a stack of letters. This was a visible sign of my friends’ presence in the next season of my life, a season I would be navigating without them around me. These letters represented unknown future moments in which my friends would still be accompanying me.
This word is being used more often to describe how we minister to young adults. It’s the new “model,” inasmuch as we have a model these days. But what does it mean to accompany someone?
To accompany simply means to walk with. To be present. To receive. To love.
It sounds simple, perhaps even unremarkable, but true accompaniment is something that we all hunger for and its importance should never be discounted or underestimated. According to a 2020 study by Springtide Research Institute, young people are experiencing overwhelming levels of loneliness. 1 in 3 reported feeling completely alone much of the time. (And this was before Covid.)
The reason is simple: We are built for community, and we were never meant to live a life of faith on our own. We desire spaces where we are seen, welcomed, and known. We desire people in our lives who love us despite the qualities we deem unlovable. We desire a place to share our God-given gifts with others.
This kind of model does not happen overnight, and it takes a certain amount of patience and persistence to build a community where its members accompany one another. It takes a commitment on the part of every single person to encounter their neighbor, hear their story, share their own, and walk forward together in pursuit of a common goal. But imagine that kind of community. Don’t you think it’s worth the effort?