You Have More In Common with Gen Z Than You Think.

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.

Training: Ministry is Relationships | Resources: One Another Living Guide | You can even email me with your questions: mark@cadremissionaries.com

From Sticky-Notes to Friendship

Sticky Notes

As a custodian, it is never fun to walk into a classroom only to see paper and trash littered everywhere. One classroom had sticky notes all over the floor, on the desks, and in the trash cans. These little pieces of paper with adhesive do not like to be sucked up by a vacuum, so I had to go around and pick up each individual piece of paper – not happy.

Not happy, until I read what was on these pieces of paper and noticed what was written on the board at the front of the room. “That’s Gold Jerry! Gold!” I almost yelled to the empty desks. These students were dividing up their lives into different categories and creating questions they could ask others in order to help them know the beat of each other’s heart. This sounded familiar:

How would you or your students title the slices of their lives? Here are a few categories I noticed these kids were using: 

  • School
  • Friends
  • Personal Identity
  • Pets

What questions would you come up with? What would you ask to better understand the beat of your students’ hearts? What questions would the other volunteer youth leaders come up with? How about the students themselves? 

Here are a few of my favorite questions that these students developed:

  • Do you often feel alone?
  • Do you have a pet at home that you sleep with?
  • Do you feel pressure from your peers to perform well?
  • Does spending time with friends relieve stress?
  • Do you feel that school prepares us for the real world?
  • On a scale of 1-10 (hard to easy) how hard is it to find the motivation to do your homework?
  • Do you feel like there are people you fit in with at school?
  • Do you feel comfortable sharing personal thoughts with at least one parent?
  • How many days do you eat breakfast in an average week?
  • How does social media effect your mental health?

Send me an email: mark@cadremissionaries.com to see the full list. I will also share with you how I’ve used questions like these to create activities to help build community within our youth group.