You have heard me share my concern for the next generation, America, and the church. But we are far from hopeless! Our God is a mighty God. As Christians, we have the One true reason for hope, and we are called to reflect Him to this world.
As we prepare to release our new Why I Believe small group Bible study next month, I want to share an interview we did with student-ministry leader and apologist, Dr. Sean McDowell, professor at Biola University. He covers a lot of great questions, and you will find the full audio included in this month’s Coffee Break update, but I also wanted to share one of Sean’s responses here.
I hope this will inspire you to take time to listen to the interview, sit down with your kids and grandkids, maybe with the Why I Believe study, to have some conversations around these challenging issues facing younger generations.
How do we help our children own their own faith with the pressures of today and how are those pressures different from other generations?
I think it’s different in a few ways. The first way it’s different is there’s deeper hurt and loneliness in this generation than in previous generations. I mean, just in the past few months, we’ve seen skyrocketed studies about loneliness, studies about depression, attempted suicide. There’s always been difficult relational periods for young people since we’ve had young people. But there’s something skyrocketed within this Generation Z emotional hurt. And if they’re not experiencing it in their family, and they’re not experiencing it in the church, they’re going to take off and try to find something that fills up that emotional void.
The second way that it’s really different is arguably the internet. This generation now, because of cell phones, has challenges just one click away that many previous generations would experience in the university or beyond. So the accessibility of information often creates a sense of skepticism, unknowability, doubt, questions in ways that other generations just simply didn’t have to confront directly, immediately in front of them. Because studies have shown that kids are engaged with social media and on the internet and screen time somewhere, depending on how you study, between seven and eleven hours a day. That’s how they see the world. Screen time has made things radically different.
The last way I’d say it is different is when my father (Josh McDowell) was speaking in, say, the 70s and 80s on college campuses, what would happen is people would challenge him and say, “That’s not true. Give me proof. Show me the facts.” Broadly speaking, the Christian culture was at least supportive of a Christian worldview. Now with this generation, if you say you’re Christian, and you really take it seriously, in particular, on moral and sexual issues, you’re bigoted, you’re intolerant, and you’re hateful. In fact, there’s one activist has called it “talibanic.”
So this generation is growing up with a stronger awareness that there’s a little bit more of a cost or potential cost of following Jesus than previous generations. So we’re losing that middle ground that says, “I’ll just follow Jesus and it doesn’t mean anything.” That’s so much wasn’t the case in the past. By the way, we’ve heard about these nones, N-O-NE-S, people who said they’re Christians and leaving. I think a lot of them are just people who nominally are identified as Christians, not really those who fully bought in the first place. So there are significant differences from generations that would leave the faith in America in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
So What’s a Parent or Grandparent to Do?
From the research on this topic and over 35 years as a pastor, I can share 3 characteristics of children who don’t leave the faith:
Children who see the reality and centrality of Jesus in the lifestyle, priorities, and values of their parents are far more likely to embrace their parents’ faith.
Children who begin reading the Bible and talking with God daily about their real life issues as a “relationship to cultivate” not a “religious exercise to perform” are most likely to remain in the faith.
Children who actively and regularly serve in the church and with parents in the community rather than simply attending small group and youth group are far more likely to remain in the faith.
Pray about what conversations you need to have with your children and grandchildren and seek out opportunities to create conversations that open doors to honest discussions around these questions.
Finally, pray that God will use our new small group Bible study, Why I Believe, to equip parents and grandparents to dramatically turn the tide in Christian homes across America.
Let’s keep pressing ahead TOGETHER!
CEO & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge