Gen Z is sometimes called “iGEN” due to their reliance on technology. They are our children, grandchildren, other family, neighbors, our next generation, 18 and under. They arrived after Millennials, Generation X, and the now declared middle group of Xenenials, (those caught in the middle between Millennials and Generation X, of which your pastor is one.) Each of these various generations come with our own subculture and set of general trends of belief and behavior. Each generation after the sexual revolution of the 60’s has progressively gotten farther away from biblical views. Based on a range of questions Barna has concluded just 4% of American Gen Z have a biblical worldview.
During the end of March, Carrie and I went to the Maven Conference. Brett Kunkle is a name I have mentioned before. I consider him a mentor and I really am thankful for his ministry. We worked together for the now annual Maven conference in Oxford Mississippi and it was a blessing to be able hear from him again and catch up for just a few minutes after the conference. After I had first sent in my resume to the search committee, it was actually Brett who told me how to pronounce “Visalia” and told me a bit about the town.
He had worked at Stand to Reason (str.org) started the now famous Rethink student conference and spent time as a youth pastor. One of the wildest things he did was take youth groups onto UC Berkley Campus and have them interact with atheists. He did this to train them for what they would encounter outside of their own local church, and own towns. He did this with training, not just teaching. He didn’t merely talk at them, but used role plays, gave them books to read, and higher expectations, so that they could know not only what they believed, but why they believed, and could articulate it, even to one of the most hostile audiences on earth. These trips continue to be a roaring success. I’m telling you about Brett, because I want you to know he isn’t just an academic, but he is an expert that gets very practical in keeping young people in the faith, and he, and other speakers at the conference, had a lot to share.
Gen Z are those who were born between 1999 and 2015 and their motto could be, “You do you.” They are extremely individualistic, and to them, truth is relative. Of course, we know that doesn’t make sense, but they simply accept that idea. They hold that it is absolutely true, that there are no absolute truths, and I hope you see the problem in that. When polled they ascribe more negative moral weight to not recycling than they do to watching pornography. They are extremely addicted with upwards of 85% of teen males having experienced pornography, with females not far behind. Previous generations have only identified as something other than heterosexual in small numbers, now up to 12% identify as homosexual, transgender, asexual or something other than heterosexual. As high as 69% believe it is acceptable to live out as any gender you feel mentally. Only 34% believe lying is morally wrong. Science rules the day in determining truth, but most do not realize that the idea that only science can show truth, is a philosophical one, and can’t itself be shown in the laboratory, so in short, it doesn’t make sense, as it’s incoherent and self-defeating. Suicide rates are skyrocketing.
There is good news. The younger generation is more likely to be pro-life. The angry “New Atheism” of folks like Richard Dawkins is fading. They are craving community, because technology has only provided an artificial sense of community and has actually driven people farther apart. Research has been done, and we know why young people leave the church, so we can now develop a better game plan to keep them involved and prepare them for a hostile college campus, and increasingly secular public life. David Kinnaman, has stated, “It is possible that many churches are preparing young Christians to face a world that no longer exists.” And research has backed this up. Our students can actually handle more than we usually try to teach them in Sunday School, and VBS. We can be intentional about upping what we are doing. Especially in middle school and up we should encourage questions, and if we don’t know the answers, find them, as they are out there in a wealth of resources. This will take adjustments.
Who is Gen Z? Largely, they are lost souls. They are a large portion of the mission field to whom God is sending us. How can we make an impact on them? We need your help. Carrie is implementing new curriculum in the youth group, and we are looking at additional staff hours spent towards impacting younger individuals, and training parents, and grandparents. Our congregation skews older, but some of these hurdles explain part of why it is difficult to have new and younger families join us - they have a lot on their plate. We have to continue Organic Outreach, knowing that especially for Gen Z, truth is best received in the context of relationships. So I am asking you to listen, to befriend, and pray for those around, younger families in particular. Parents have it tougher than ever before. We need to effectively communicate with them. We must have a game plan to incorporate not just fun, but meaningful and impactful knowledge, including apologetics, into their children’s lessons. This will prepare them for what’s to come. We need to be beside them as they try to navigate this rapidly changing world.
I’d like to recommend a couple of resources to you. Three Videos from Brett, (I make a brief cameo in one)
and I’d also like to encourage you to read “Tactics” by Greg Koukl, we will be doing a study on that book soon.
Originally printed in the April 2019 FCC Newsletter