Face It, the Next Generation is Different...and That's a Good Thing

Solomon once said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” While that’s true in most cases, it doesn’t hold up with culture. Sure, there are universal values in every culture to certain extents, but the reality is that too many church leaders use that statement as a way to dodge figuring out how the next generation ticks. If the next generation is the future of the Church, then it deserves the better part of our personal bandwidth to get where they are and engage them.

I get that there are statistics that declare how the next generation is the darkest generation we have ever seen, but I would beg to differ. History has seen previous generations encounter dark times before, and every single generation has seen a small group of leaders rise up and lead the way with the light of Christ. What’s more, the light of Christ has led each generation in every realm of society: from the marketplace to the boardroom and yes, even in the political arena, we see that God’s hand is evident. And even though there are new challenges facing the next generation, I’m here to tell you God is still on His throne and His Church is still on the move.

The late cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, once stated, “Throughout history, most cultures have been dis-figurative, where parents and grandparents help their young to understand the future. A few times it becomes co-figurative, where change happens so fast that society depends on the young to help understand the future. However, I anticipate that a time is coming in history where technology changes so fast that culture, for the first time in human history, will be pre-figurative, where children will have to figure out for themselves what their values will be.”

Little did she know that she was talking about the generation of young people that are currently filling our Kids & Youth Ministries. That said, here are 3 key perspectives that we must take if we are to win this generation to Christ and develop them into the future leaders this world needs:

  1. The next generation wants a timeless Word, not a trendy Word. In the midst of a superficial (and artificial) world, the next generation isn’t as concerned with what’s “hip” when it comes to church as much as it’s concerned with what’s “holy.” Why? Because holiness is the authentic expression of God in all He does in this world and the next generation wants what’s real. The next generation is looking for something to which they can anchor their hearts; which is why liturgy is making a comeback with Millennials.  It’s authentic. Our objective should not be, "How can we make the Word appealing,” but rather, “How can we emphasize the values that the Word initiates into the lives of our students?"
    How to pray: Pray for this next generation to have a gift of discernment and a holy discontent that drives them into an authentic walk with Jesus.

  2. The next generation wants access. If something doesn’t permeate every aspect of a young person’s culture, they’re not interested. Consider the movie industry. Hollywood spends millions on inundating our senses with an upcoming movie premiere; from movie trailers, to billboards to articles. They know that one access point isn’t enough; they need to saturate the market. In the same way, the next generation not only has the craving to access what they are interested in, but they also have the ability to CREATE greater access and opportunity for people to engage Christ, His Church, and the Word of God.
    How to pray: Pray that the next generation has the wisdom to take the creativity that is inherent in their generation and use it to innovate new ways to reach the lost.
  3. The next generation wants community. The only thing that speaks louder than cultural pressure to an emerging generation is community. Young people will gather in a place of community to escape cultural pressures they may not feel comfortable with. The key to engaging the next generation is to invite them into the body of Christ before we invite them through the doors of our church. A commonly known model, but one that's entirely under-utilized, is that of discipling people into salvation as opposed to leading them to Christ and then discipling them after. People will always be more loyal to a community than they will to a personal decision. If you invite them into your community, then their decision to follow Christ will be more likely to stick. 
    How to pray: The next generation naturally creates community greater than many generations prior to it.  Pray that members of the next generation use that ability to be inclusive of every individual that is searching, no matter who or what that individual may look like.