Review of Shaping the Journey

Meet the Authors

Richard R. Dunn and Jana L. Sundene both have experience as professors and in parish ministry.  Dunn is lead pastor at Fellowship Evangelical Free Church (Knoxville, TN), and formerly served as chair of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Sundene serves on the leadership team of the Vine Christian Community (Long Grove, IL), and is associate professor of Christian ministries at Trinity College.

Book Basics

Given the limited literature on effectively discipling/apprenticing emerging adults (those persons aged 21 through mid-thirties) and the positive advance publicity about Dunn and Sundene’s new book, I was excited to open the pages of what I assumed would be an insightful and substantive contribution by authors with significant experience in the classroom as well as in the parish.  After spending far too much time plodding through the book, I now place Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation among the candidates for my most disappointing reads of 2012.  While the book touches upon many good ideas and draws in relevant supporting literature, readers will find it challenging to mine useful data from a book that seeks to avoid formulas while providing an abundance of very specific recommendations  that come across as best practices.  Further, in an attempt to personalize things the authors relate a great number of personal stories and examples of emerging adults in discipling/apprenticing relationships that are forced or read as artificial constructs designed to illustrate a specific principle or practice.  The concluding chapter stands apart as even more awkward and artificial, consisting primarily of a reproduction of a conversation between the authors.  If I were to hand this book off to someone I felt had the qualities to help shape the journey of an emerging adult, I fear the work would discourage rather than empower them to consider embracing such a role.

So What?

Discipling/apprenticing emerging adults is different from discipling/apprenticing those in other life stages.  Those tasked with mentoring/shepherding individuals in this cohort are wise to seek to understand both the challenges that have been a part of this life stage for generations as well as those that are new or being felt in new ways by the current generation.

  • The authors address several developmental issues in emerging adulthood.  Their list includes identity and purpose, spirituality, relationships, sexuality, and the daily world.  What other issues would you add to this list?
  • How would you rate your congregation’s ministry of discipling/apprenticing emerging adults?  What are some of the greatest strengths? obvious growing edges?


Richard R. Dunn and Jana L. Sundene.  Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation (IVP Books, 2012).  ISBN: 9780830834693.


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