I like living in my bubble. My bubble is nice. It is comfortable. It is happy. Life was good until I read, “Meet Generation Z” by James Emery White at which time my bubble burst. I thought that since I was working with elementary age kids, I should learn more about this generation. These are kids born between 1996 and 2014. Wow! What a wakeup call! I think I’d like to go back into my bubble now. Unfortunately, it does not work that way when serving the Lord.
So what did I learn? Perhaps the most startling fact was that this generation is the first true POST-Christian generation. I supposed I should not be surprised, after all, we cannot talk about God in the work place (unless you work in ministry). We cannot talk about God in schools. Our monuments tied to Christianity are no longer welcome. And then we watched evil sweep in. We cannot talk about God in school but we can teach the science of evolution. We cannot discuss God; however we can talk about accepting the homosexual lifestyle. We cannot talk about God but transgenders are welcomed into elementary schools and encouraging kids to accept this lifestyle. No, I guess I should not be surprised at this latest statistic.
This generation makes up more of the American population than Baby Boomers. This is a large group and only 4 out of 10 attend church services weekly. Today’s generation is very secularized and has little to no knowledge of the gospel. Here’s how White summarized Generation Z, “First, they are lost. They are not simply living in and being shaped by a post-Christian cultural context. They do not even have a memory of the gospel. The degree of spiritual illiteracy is simply stunning… (Second), they are leaderless. Little if any direction is coming from their families, and even less from their attempts to access guidance from the internet. So how can they be reached?”
Reaching children when we have them is one thing, but getting them to us is a whole other dilemma. Then, of course, there is keeping them focused on God as they grow and we know that parents have more influence on this than church leaders. It seems to me that yes, we need to make our children’s ministry attractive; after all, the statistics on how much a child influences decisions in the home these days is truly astonishing! None the less, we must deal with reality. Equally important to an inviting and engaging children’s ministry is a parent’s ministry.
The parents of our Gen Z kids are mainly from Generation X. We need to understand them to know what pulls at their heart string. These parents are more cautious and frugal than generations past, but are known to spend more on their kids. They want good things for their children. Most of our kids homes have two parents working outside the home so kids come home to an empty house after school every day or are enrolled in after school care. Then there’s divorce… much higher divorce rates than years past. So their kids are growing up more independent, but not necessarily learning what they ought to.
Now, we know how important their kids are to them but we also know how pressed for time they are. Parents are short on time and want to spend time with their kids so they put their kids in sports. Baseball, soccer and cheer is fun for everyone, but this means even less time for the church each week. It may appear hopeless, but let’s look closer. Parents want to be good parents. They love their kids. The church needs to teach parents what is happening to children when they are not hearing about God every day. They need to be shown them very real and scary statistics of our children growing up without expressing and showing them that God is the focal point, the priority for the family. Then we need to teach a parent how to do this. And finally, we do not need to overwhelm parents with more programs, but we do need to offer them the tools to raise kids for Christ with the church as their partner.
What tools do they want and need? Here are just a few ideas:
- Scriptural answers for why we believe in God
- Time management tips
- Prayer suggestions
- 5-minute devotional with discussion question
- Share their bible lesson from Sunday and give ways to reinforce at home
- Fun family activities that allow discussion of God
- Discussion starter questions about God for the dinner table, traveling to school, etc.
- Make counseling available. Being a parent is hard and sometimes, we just need extra help.
Remind parents of Deuteronomy 6:5-8: 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Why would God instruct us to talk about God’s commands ALL the time, at every opportunity? Are parents doing this? If parents had been doing this all along, do you think the state of America would be where it is today? Make your children’s AND parent’s ministry a priority.
Interested in reading more about Generation Z?