Today we will continue our discussion of the characteristics of Generation Z, the largest generation on earth, currently in elementary-high school. If you didn’t catch last week’s post, please read it first. Also, you’re really going to want to listen to the podcast for this week, as I talk to four students who have great perspective on what it’s like to be salt and light in a confused public school campus.
They are confidently confused.
- In the past couple of decades, there has been a seismic shift. For some time, it seemed that moral values, identity, etc. were put on the table as open topics of discussion. Now, I’m seeing that masses of students are confidently, sometimes militantly asserting that their position is correct, even if it makes no sense at all. Many of our student who are following Jesus now get blasted as hateful and intolerant – not because of how they actually treat people – but because they dare to say that some things are right and that some things are wrong.
- The word “tolerance” has changed its meaning. No longer does it mean “I disagree with you but we can live in mutual respect and appreciation”. It means “I must agree that what you’re doing is perfectly wonderful, otherwise I am _______phobic”
- Our teens, and increasingly our elementary aged children, are swimming in this culture. Some of them are swayed by this distorted thinking and simply adopt the thinking (or lack of thinking) of their peers. Others hold to traditional Biblical viewpoints and face various levels of shaming or shunning by classmates.
- As a parent, I’ve realized there is no such thing as a fully protective bubble from these trends. So I’ve tried to take the following pro-active steps
- Model and celebrate the fact that God created man and woman distinctly AND both in His image.
- Equip my children and students with a solid definition of manhood and womanhood that isn’t based on tasks or talents, but still affirms their uniqueness as men and women.
- Swallow my instincts to spout off gut reactions or trite sayings about “the way things should be”. I want to continually shine light on the truth, but I also want to realize that some of my kids and friends are going to walk through struggles that seemed absolutely foreign to me. I want to keep doors open for them to express their honest struggles without fear of my harsh reactions. Yes, this can be an internal fight, but it’s time to be the grown up, suck up my feelings, and be prepared to answer with confidence, gentleness, and humility.
- Talk to my children and students as both a teacher and a learner. I know some of the answers. But I don’t know exactly what they are going through. I don’t know how it feels. I don’t know what it’s like to be coming of age in this particularly warped sexual culture. Ask them questions on what they experience, what their friends are going through, how it makes them feel. Understand that they’re not always going to talk to me about these things, even if I want them to.
- Surround my kids with as many adults and peers as I can that are grounded in their biblical worldview, love, and kindness. I want to help steer my kids towards adults they may feel safe to talk to when I’m too scary. I want them to be in a culture of friends that will sound the warning and call them out when they are being foolish.
- THIS, among 3,452 other reasons, is why we don’t just go to church when it’s convenient. We immerse ourselves in the church body. We pour into people. We get poured into. We reach out and invest, and trust that others will do the same to our kids. Or, you can go at it alone. Seems like an easy choice to me.
It’s a new world. Generation Z is going to do some amazing things. But they’re going to carry baggage like other generations have never experienced. In the middle of the mess, there is ministry, there is Jesus.
Let’s be Jesus to these kids.