Discipling Young Women (Part 2): Who Are the Young Women?

What defines a young adult woman? Lawson explained, “Adulthood is reached when individuals become personally accountable for themselves and accept adult responsibilities. Adulthood is another stage of life that, in itself, has many more stages.”[1] Within the lifestage of adulthood there are levels of development, such as “emerging adulthood” and “young adulthood.”[2] For the purpose of this discussion, attention will be given to young adult women who are currently between sixteen and thirty-six years of age. This group is referred to as the Millennial Generation, “a group of young people whose birth years range from 1980 to 2000. This generation edged out the Boomers (aka the Baby Boomers born 1946-1964) to become the largest generation in America’s history.”[3] Within this group of Millennials, many are experiencing particular life stages, which will now be explored.

As mentioned in the previous post, Titus 2:3-5 addresses younger women in regards to marriage, parenting, and homemaking. Therefore, Millennials experiencing these life stages will be discussed. This post will focus on young adult women of the Millennial Generation who are in the early years of marriage and have pre-school and elementary school aged children.

Priorities of Young Women: Career, Marriage, and Family

The main priorities of Millennial women in the early years of marriage, parenting, and homemaking fall into three main categories: education and career, marriage, and parenting.

First, young women are very concerned about completing their education and finding the right career path. A 2013 study by the Barna Group asked women what they wanted to accomplish before age thirty. The researchers found, “younger women (18-29) hope to finish their education (53%), launch their career (50%), find out who they really are (45%), and become more spiritually mature (33%). And more than half (55%) believe that in the next five years they will have attained their dream job.”[5]

Due to the emphasis young women put on establishing their careers, their next priority of marriage is being delayed. A recent study concluded that Millennial women are marrying much later, if they choose to get married at all: “In 1970 about 44 percent of eighteen to twenty-five-year-old Boomers were married. Today only 15 percent of Millennials in that age group are married. And the average age of first marriages has gone up from 20.8 for women in 1970 to 25.5 today.”[6]

The emphasis on career success combined with a later start to marriage could be major contributors for the desire to have very few children. While 61 percent of Millennials value family as really important,[7] the same study found that they are not interested in having many children: “Almost half (47 percent) of the Millennial Generation believes they will have two children. Twenty percent believe they will have three children. Thirteen percent of the Millennial Generation believe they will not have any children at all. Those who believe they will have one child totaled 9 percent.”[8] The research indicates that Millennial women desire a successful career, a later marriage, and fewer children.

Young women hope to enjoy fulfilment in all three of these areas of life. However, the reality of career, marriage, and family life can become overwhelming. Many young women have not had mentorship in these areas. Marbery-Foster argued, “the foundations with which many women come into adulthood are not as strong as in past years. Broken homes, job demands, frequent moves, lack of strong church ties—all these play a factor in this scenario.”[9] Once young women do enter this season of life, finding a healthy balance of their priorities can seem impossible.

Many young adults are excited about obtaining their “dream life,” yet the time and energy required for each priority may not be realized before experiencing them simultaneously: “The tension can be especially great among young women as they seek to balance marriage with a rising career, and at the same time hear the ticking of their biological clock that warns them that they need to begin a family.”[10] Furthermore, the responsibilities of homemaking can become very demanding. Multiple studies indicate that women who work outside the home continue to do the vast majority of domestic tasks such as housework, childcare, cooking, shopping, cleaning, and laundry.[11] Certainly there are great challenges for young women to enjoy equal measures of success and fulfilment in career, marriage, and family life.

Influencers of Young Women: Media and Relationships

What is influencing the thinking and practice of young women? Research indicates that due to social media use, the Millennial Generation is continuously connected to several sources of influence at once. The two main sources of influence can be categorized as media and relationships. Rainer and Rainer discovered, “Over half of the Millennials find the Internet a positive influence. Fifty-five percent said that they find influence on Web sites and blogs…Thirty-two percent of the Millennials found television as a positive source of influence…Music, Internet, and television each outranked religious beliefs, a spouse, and a boss in terms of influence.”[12] This research demonstrates just how much young adults are being impacted by media.

Within social media, 73 percent of Millennials are using Facebook.[13] Social media users are using tools such as Facebook to compare oneself to others in the same life stage. The Barna Group suggested that social media use among women can contribute to them feeling both inferior and superior to their peers. The Barna research showed that when they compare themselves to others on social media, Christian women tend to feel significantly inferior in status and prestige, yet considerably superior in parenting skills.[14] Social media is a major influencer in the identity and practice of young women.

In addition to media, young women are influenced by relationships. One study found that 81 percent of Millennials pointed to friends as a positive influence.[15] What is most encouraging is that 85 percent seek advice from their parents,[16] and 94 percent indicated their great respect for older generations.[17] So while young women are being heavily influenced through various forms of media, from their perspective, real people have the most positive impact on their lives.

Millennials see their friends as beneficial, yet recognize the best impressions come from their parents and older generations. This fact is particularly encouraging from a ministry perspective. As discussed earlier, the apostle Paul exhorted the older women to teach and encourage the younger. It seems the young women of today might be ready and willing to receive godly wisdom and instruction from an older generation.

Summary: Young Women of Today

For the purpose of this discussion, young women were defined as those of the Millennial Generation (1980-2000), who are in the early stages of marriage and parenting. The main priorities of these young women are education and career, marriage, and parenting. The two major influencers are media and people. Young adults have respect for the influence of their parents and older generations, which could suggest that young women would embrace biblical instruction and encouragement from older women. The next post will consider the question: how can the church effectively disciple young women?

     [1]Lawson, “The Adult Learner,” in Teaching Ministry of the Church, 351.

     [2]“Arnett (2000a) builds a case for two unique periods. His research confirms that eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds generally do not consider themselves as having reached adulthood, while the majority of those in their thirties do. The majority of youth eighteen to twenty-five are in the process of preparing for long-term careers through education and training, whereas most in their thirties have chosen an enduring career path. Most in this younger period are not married and are childless, and most in their thirties are married and have children.” Jack O. Balswick, Pamela Ebstyne King, and Kevin S. Reimer, The Reciprocating Self: Human Development in Theological Perspective (Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2005), 192.

     [3]The Rainers’ very helpful resource is based on research conducted among eighteen to twenty-nine-year-olds. Thom S. Rainer and Jess W. Rainer, The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2011), 2.

     [4]Dennis Rainey, Ministering to Twenty-First Century Families: Eight Big Ideas for Church Leaders (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2001), 89-91.

     [5]Kate Harris, Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity, Barna Group Frames Series (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 21.

     [6]Rainer and Rainer, The Millennials, 3.

     [7]Ibid., 74.

     [8]Ibid., 68.

     [9]Lucy Mabery-Foster, Women and the Church: Reaching, Teaching, and Developing Women for Christ (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999), 206.

     [10]Balswick, King, and Reimer, The Reciprocating Self, 196.

     [11]“Wives do twice as much housework and three times as much child care as husbands (MacPhee, 1999). One study found that women do 77 percent of the cooking, 66 percent of the shopping, 75 percent of the cleaning, and 85 percent of the laundry (Benokratis, 1996, as cited in Hamilton, 1999).” Andrew J.Weaver, Linda A. Revilla, and Harold G. Koenig. Counseling Families Across the Stages of Life: A Handbook for Pastors and Other Helping Professionals (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2002), 58.

     [12]Rainer and Rainer, The Millennials, 199.

     [13] Ibid., 194.

     [14]Harris, Wonder Women, 24-25.

     [15]Rainer and Rainer, The Millennials, 121.

     [16]Ibid., 120.

     [17]Ibid., 59.

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