Almost everyone loves a baby. Welcoming several into our church family through recent dedications has been inspiring. We readily stand as a church family and pledge ourselves to pray and to support the parents as they do the hard work.
Then the teen years arrive and the wrestling for independence. What do we do with the next generation – especially when so many of them get busy and start caving to peer pressure? Researchers are optimistic and see this group as the most “connected, educated and sophisticated generation in history.”
Tim Elmore and Andrew McPeak, in their book Marching Off the Map, remind us that today’s students are unique in that they “put technology in the same category as air and water.” With that access the next generation is ‘down to earth, distracted, distressed, discerning and determined.’
In 2020, we have six distinct sociological generations living together – negotiating for space. The Builders (1929-1945); The Boomers (1946-1964); The Busters (1965-1982 Generation X); The Millennials (1983-2000 Generation Y); The Centennials (2001-2018 Generation Z); The Next (2019-)
Anthropologist Margaret Mead says “WE are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.” (p. 69)
Clearly, the next generation is anxious about the fragility of the environment, about the untrustworthiness of their governments, about the uncertain nature of truth, about their financial prosperity, about their long-term housing stability, and about the temporary nature of love and relationships. How do we speak hope, life and peace to them so they don’t get overwhelmed?
Too often, we’ve left our children to get their answers elsewhere – in school, on-line, from their peers. Christian adults need to nurture relationships with the younger generations so that trust and truth can be established and embraced early. Youth don’t see the same need to belong and are disengaging from political parties, churches, and traditional organizations. They care more about opportunity than about loyalty. They care more about what’s trending on social media.
As influencers of the next generation this is a time for authenticity – acknowledging what we do know and what we don’t know. Our youth are navigating a world filled with mental health challenges, growing suicide rates, escalating addictions, gender confusion, fake news, ethnic diversity, changing cultural and social values, etc. Who will walk with them?
Our world promotes ‘speed, convenience, entertainment, nurture and entitlement’ (p. 73). Students are left thinking that slow, hard, boring, risk and work are bad. How do we in the church give the next generation a different sense of who Jesus is for them in the midst of all the changes they face?
While 2020 is still young, this is a time to be on our knees for the next generations. It is also a time to intentionally be reaching back to provide whatever support, encouragement and relationship is needed. Just as God has not abandoned us, those who come after us need daily reminders that he has not abandoned them. Regardless of which generation you are growing with, remember you are loved more than you could ask or imagine. Pastor Jack