“I had a fascinating conversation with my teenager recently,” a friend told me over the phone. He was having a conversation with his wife about his frustration with the country’s leaders as they have somehow made a global pandemic a divisive political issue.
“All of a sudden, my 13-year-old yells out, ‘I hate those people. They are stupid and selfish.’” My friend immediately turned to curiosity, asking, “Well, tell me more. Why do you feel this way? How did you come to this conclusion?”
There is that age-old idiom, “Out of the mouths of babes.” And the reality is that our kids are watching, listening, observing, processing, and formulating their opinion. They form an opinion, not just about the pandemic and who is leading us through it, but what is happening with the churches they attend.
We all too often look at the church's younger members as the future generation of church leaders. But, in my opinion, that is flawed theology and thinking. Our children and teenagers are part of the present age for church leadership.
Are we considering what our teenagers think about the church, what the church is doing, how the church is functioning, and the direction the church should be going?
Gen Z, those born after 1996, believe that they can change the world for the better. According to a recent study that found over 60% of Gen Z is committed, more than any other generation, to the core belief in planning to change the world. Seven out of 10 of this generation believe cause relation is core to their identity. 74% say it’s imperative to express one’s self and one’s core values.
I guess we have to ask ourselves as a church, are we allowing them to change the world? Are we creating space for our teenagers to talk about the things they are passionate about, how these things relate to their faith, and discover ways that we can help them live out these expressions?
The hard reality is that we know what happens when churches ignore the needs, desires, and passions of a generation. Churches are seeing it now more than ever as the Millennial generation leaves the church in droves. They are not abandoning their faith, but rather are just expressing their faith through taking action in causes impacting their community.
What would it look like for us to listen to our teenagers’ needs and desires? What would it look like for us to create leadership opportunities for our teenagers?