There is a lot being said right now about Gen Z (Gen Z: The Hand They Have Been Dealt | Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs, and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation). But we need to be careful as we do a deep dive into what makes this generation tick. Our preoccupation with the uniqueness of this generation, might actually isolate us from them instead of drawing us to them. You probably have more in common with Gen Z than you realize.
I believe each generation must travel along the same path in their engagement with God or estrangement from Him. They are navigating the reality of sin, brokenness, relationships, their own internal wiring and development, and the culture they live in. This is often referred to as the human condition. While each generation will have a unique twist to this journey, I believe there is more in common between the generations than there are distinctions.
About a year ago, I was having a conversation with a group of veteran youth leaders – whom I highly respect. One of them, who does ministry on the west coast, was asked, “You’ve been doing ministry with middle school students for a long time. What new issues / trends are you seeing in this generation?” The question seemed to catch this youth leader off guard a little. He thought for a second and then responded, “Yes, I suppose there are some new issues these kids are facing, but after eighteen years of working with middle school students I’ve realized that the kids today are dealing with the same issues that the kids eighteen years ago were dealing with.”
Last week, I spoke with a science teacher in our public high school. This teacher said to me, “After thirty-four years of teaching, I’ve noticed that they are still the same kids. The only difference is their earbuds. They are lonely. They retreat into their screens.”
What can we can do for this generation? How can we connect with them:
Pray through a list of the teenagers in your life. Ask God to give you compassion and empathy toward them. Ask him to help you hear the beat of their heart.
Take a genuine interest in these students. What are their passions, talents, and interests. What do they think about? What do they worry about?
Part of being a teenager is navigating a sense of loneliness – help them to realize they are loved and known by God and by you.
Use your favorite App to jot down notes about them and remind you to message them.
Pray for them and the important things in their life – let them know you are praying for them.
God designed this life around relationships – with him and with each other. Lean into this journey of becoming friends (with your teenagers) who follow Jesus together.
We would love to encourage and equip you in this journey of building Christ centered relationships with teenagers.